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Imax CEO Bets Big On ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ China Box Office Prospects



Imax CEO Richard Gelfond predicts big box office in China and elsewhere worldwide for James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel Avatar: The Way of the Water.

Avatar and Imax share a synergy, a DNA,” Gelfond told the Wells Fargo TMT Summit conference during a session on Tuesday. He recalled Imax in 2010 having 250 theaters worldwide at the time and his company pulled in around $250 million in box office for the original. Avatar movie.

Gelfond said he could not predict the ultimate global box office for Avatar: The Way of the Water, but added the sequel will inevitably do disproportionately more business on Imax screens as cinema-goers are drawn to his company’s premium, giant screen experience.

The sequel will open on 1,700 Imax screens in 89 countries on Dec. 16. Gelfond said the pre-sale numbers for Avatar can’t be made public yet, but he did add: “It’s one of the highest pre-sale levels we’ve ever seen. So I’m extremely excited about Avatar getting into China.”

The Disney and 20th Century movie will open in China on Dec. 16, the same day it hits North American theaters. Avatar: The Way of Water landed a rare berth in China for a Hollywood movie since the pandemic began.

Cameron’s sequel will land in theaters worldwide 13 years later Avatar made history in 2009, becoming the top-grossing film of all time at the global box office, a crown it still wears today with more than $2.92 billion in ticket sales, not adjusted for inflation and including rereleases.

Imax credits the 2010 release of Avatar in China on its screens with turbocharging the expansion of its brand in that key Asian market. “There’s no doubt that Avatar was a catalyst for new [theater] signings and opening up territories around the world,” Gelfond told the investor conference.

In March 2021, when Imax rereleased the original Avatar movie in China, the technology company delivered 30 percent of the opening weekend box office, even as Imax only has around 1 percent of screens in China.

Gelfond told the Wells Fargo conference that China relaxing its zero-COVID policy could boost box office for the Avatar sequel, but continuing regional lockdowns could depress business for the Hollywood tentpole. “It’s volatile … Because if not enough people go, that’s definitely a risk,” the Imax CEO argued.

Gelfond said he hasn’t yet screened the Avatar sequel, but touted its production values. “I’ve seen some of the technology and the work [Cameron has] done and it’s a quantum leap forward from the first movie and I think people will be attracted to that,” he said.

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