20th Century Studios

When it comes to the financial success of the “Avatar” sequel, many have taken one quote from an interview filmmaker James Cameron gave back in November and set it in stone as an immutable fact.

In that interview with GQ Magazine, Cameron said “Avatar: The Way of Water” was so expensive to make it would have to have to “be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history. That’s your threshold. That’s your break even.”

That led to people quickly looking up charts and coming to the conclusion that the new film would have to cross the $2 billion mark at the box-office to be profitable as the Top 5 highest-grossing films of all time have done so (often only just).

There was always some serious complications with that thinking. “Avatar: The Way of Water” wasn’t shot on its own, rather it was filmed alongside the third and part of the fourth “Avatar” film. In addition, all the scripts for all five films were developed together, and a bunch of technology was developed for the shoot that will be used across the franchise.

Thus when it comes time to figure out the economics of this single film, it’s a trickier prospect which is why estimates of the individual film’s production budget have ranged anywhere from $350 – 460 million. Going by the high end of those figures, the film’s current $1.55 billion global box-office to date suggests it has either reached or nearly reached that break-even point.

Cameron himself has now confirmed that it has. Appearing on this week’s episode of “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” (via Variaty) Cameron says the film should head into profit imminently and in doing so it has immediately filled up his dance card:

“It looks like with the momentum that the film has now that we’ll easily pass our break even in the next few days, so it looks like I can’t wiggle out of this and I’m gonna have to do these other sequels. I know what I’m going to be doing the next six or seven years.”

Cameron was then asked about his quote in November, and how it appeared he was referring to the $2 billion mark. Cameron clarified his comment, saying:

“I never actually gave it a number. I said it would has to be among the highest-grossing films in history and somebody else applied that number and it got picked up. The number is actually less.”

Cameron then spoke further about where things stand with the franchise:

“The point is we’re going to be okay. I’m sure that we’ll have a discussion soon with the top folks at Disney about the game plan going forward for ‘Avatar 3,’ which is already in the can – we’ve already captured and photographed the whole film, so we’re in extended post-production to do all that CG magic. And then ‘Avatar 4’ and ‘5’ are both written. We even have some of ‘4’ in the can. We’ve begun a franchise at this point. We’ve begun a saga that can now play out over multiple films.”

According to analysts, the film is very much on track to make at least $1.825 billion, with $2 billion certainly in reach if the holds continue as they have been.

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