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James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water has continued to make solid gains at China’s box office, even in the face of a catastrophic wave of COVID-19 infections. The Disney tentpole added $16.5 million in its fourth weekend, nudging its total to $189.4 million, according to data from Artisan Gateway.
After some wild swings in early forecasting, leading Chinese ticketing app Maoyan now projects Avatar 2 to top out at $222 million (RMB 1.51 billion). That’s the most of any Hollywood film of the pandemic era (Universal’s Jurassic World: Dominion sits in second place with $157.6 million), as well as an improvement upon the $202 million that the first Avatar film earned in China way back in 2009.
But the ongoing COVID outbreak’s toll on the sequel’s earnings is starkly apparent when you consider that China has more than 10 times as many movie screens today than it did in 2009, and that Avatar 2 has been extremely well received by the Chinese cinemagoers who have seen it (its social scores on Maoyan and Taopiaopiao have held at a high 9.1/10).
Avatar 2 will have one more uncontested weekend at the Chinese multiplex before a slew of domestic tentpoles launch over the Lunar New Year holiday, kicking off Jan. 22. The most anticipated among them is certainly Frank Guo’s The Wandering Earth 2, the sequel to China’s first sci-fi blockbuster, which earned $700 million in 2019. Other contenders include Bona Film Group’s World War II espionage film Hidden Blade, starring Tony Leung and Wang Yibo; sports drama Ping-Pong of China, directed by and starring Deng Chao; Full River Red, a period mystery from legendary director Zhang Yimou; and the latest installment in the long-running Bonnie Bears family animation franchise, among others.
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