Disney’s dropping stock reveals the real battle James Cameron is fighting with ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’

Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington as Neytiri and Jake Sully in 'Avatar: The Way of Water'
Image via 20th Century Studios

As moviegoers around the world piled into movie theaters to see Avatar: The Way of Water over the weekend, James Cameron and Disney held their breath waiting for box office numbers to slowly roll in. Now, numbers reveal that Disney’s stock is taking a hit, leading many to assume that the most anticipated movie of the year is actually a flop.

However, as has been the case since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic just might be to blame. 

The stock market put Disney’s shares at a 4.30 percent decrease since Avatar: The Way of Water revealed its opening weekend numbers. Those numbers continue to plummet as the hours roll by, according to MarketWatch

The Way of Water brought in a whopping $435 million worldwide over the weekend, $134 million of which came strictly from domestic sales. While numbers such as these would normally indicate a massive blockbuster success, a film of Avatar’s magnitude came with slightly different stipulations. 

For starters, the movie has been plagued by enormous expectations, much of which Cameron revealed himself. In November, the Academy Award-winning director stated that the sequel would have to become the third or fourth highest-grossing movie of all time just to make a profit. Since then, eyes have been trained on the film’s financial future, which finally came to light this weekend.

The Way of Water’s domestic revenue was projected to land somewhere between $150 and $175 million but instead has landed at $134 million. In 2009, the first Avatar had a domestic opening weekend of $77 million, but of course, that was 13 years ago. Back then, the movie’s opening weekend gave no indication it would become the highest-grossing movie of all time, but holding out hope for the same fate this time around might prove difficult in light of rising COVID-19 cases breaking out overseas.  

Of the $435 million worldwide, China accounted for only $57.1 million of The Way of Water’s numbers. The country began experiencing the first of many unfortunate COVID-related deaths in the weeks leading up to The Way of Water’s release, according to Reuters. This was followed by a wave of protests from Chinese citizens who were all but fed up with the country’s “zero covid” policies that kept the virus relatively in check up until that point. Now, China has tightened its safety protocols once more and The Washington Post projects the country will see upwards of one million deaths due to this, and further, more COVID breakouts. 

Factoring COVID’s involvement in The Way of Water’s opening weekend numbers paints a much clearer picture as to why Disney has seen such a drop in its stock. It’s not an understatement to say that the sequel needed every dollar it could get to turn the profit it needed, and as has been the case since 2020, COVID made such a goal all that much harder to achieve.

In any case, Avatar: The Way of Water is currently showing in theaters.