‘Avatar 2’ Is So Expensive It Must Become the ‘Fourth or Fifth Highest-Grossing Film in History’ Just to Break Even

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How expensive is “Avatar: The Way of Water”? Early reports have claimed the production budget alone was in the $250 million range, but director James Cameron isn’t willing to give a hard number just yet. The only answer Cameron would give about the sequel’s budget when asked by GQ magazine was the following: “Very fucking [expensive].”

Cameron apparently told Disney and 20th Century Studios executives that his sequel budget was so high it represented “the worst business case in movie history.” According to the director’s estimates, “you have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history. That’s your threshold. That’s your break even.”

On the current chart of highest-grossing movies worldwide (unadjusted for inflation), Cameron’s original 2009 “Avatar” ranks at the top with $2.9 billion. Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” is in second position with $2.7 million, while Cameron’s “Titanic” remains in the third slot with $2.1 billion. That means, according to Cameron, that if “Avatar: The Way of Water” wants to break even, it’ll need to overtake either “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($2.07 billion) or “Avengers: Infinity War” ($2.05 billion) in the fourth or fifth slots, respectively.

Only five movies have ever crossed the $2 billion mark worldwide, unadjusted for inflation. While the pandemic has affected moviegoing, films like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($1.9 billion) and “Top Gun: Maverick” ($1.4 billion) have managed to turn huge profits, so there’s hope for “The Way of Water.”

The original “Avatar” grossed $785 million domestically and sits at number four on the all-time U.S. box office chart, unadjusted for inflation. In the fifth slot is “Top Gun: Maverick” with $716 million domestic.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” opens in theaters Dec. 16.