James Cameron reveals Avatar: The Way of Water must make $2BILLION just to break even

Has the King of the Box Office FINALLY bitten off more than he can chew? James Cameron reveals Avatar: The Way of Water must make $2BILLION just to break even – as the final trailer for the sequel is released

  • James Cameron, one of the highest grossing directors of all time, said in a recent interview that his new Avatar movie needs to make $2 billion to break even 
  • If his estimate is correct, that would make the film the most expensive movie ever produced, easily beating Avengers: Age of Ultron which cost $599 million
  • The original Avatar movie, released in 2009, was a box office smash hit, bringing in $2.9 billion worldwide
  • In September, Variety estimated that the latest installment would bring in $679 billion

Avatar: The Way of Water will need to be one of the highest grossing movies of all time and gross over $2 billion just to break even, according to director James Cameron.

If that’s the case, that would make the sequel to the 2009 blockbuster comfortably the most expensive movie of all time to make when taking into account production and marketing costs. 

Oscar winner James Cameron, 68, said in a recent interview with GQ Magazine that his movie was ‘very f***ing expensive.’ The director and producer did not elaborate further on the numbers involved.

He did say that budgets for the movie represented ‘the worst business case in movie history.’ Cameron added: ‘You have to be the third of fourth highest-grossing film in history. That’s your threshold. That’s your break even.’

The third highest grossing movie of all time is Cameron’s own Titanic, which made $2.1 billion when it was released in 1997, around $3.8 billion in today’s money. That’s followed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which made just over $2 billion in 2015, around $2.5 billion in 2022.

Director James Cameron recently said that his latest Avatar movie needs to bring in $2 billion just to break even

Director James Cameron recently said that his latest Avatar movie needs to bring in $2 billion just to break even 

According to Cameron's estimates, his film will have cost nearly three times as much as Avengers: Age of Ultron to make in 2015

According to Cameron’s estimates, his film will have cost nearly three times as much as Avengers: Age of Ultron to make in 2015

Cameron's own 1997 movie Titanic is both one of the highest grossing movies of all time and was one of the most expensive movies to produce

Cameron’s own 1997 movie Titanic is both one of the highest grossing movies of all time and was one of the most expensive movies to produce

Disney's infamous 2012 flop John Carter is still one of the most expensive movies ever produced and marketed by the studio giant. It's failure at the box office saw its proposed sequels canceled

Disney’s infamous 2012 flop John Carter is still one of the most expensive movies ever produced and marketed by the studio giant. It’s failure at the box office saw its proposed sequels canceled 

In 1995, the budget for Kevin Costner's Waterworld spiraled out of control, as did the negative reviews

In 1995, the budget for Kevin Costner’s Waterworld spiraled out of control, as did the negative reviews 

If Cameron’s prediction is accurate, and the movie’s budget is around $2 billion, that would be over three times the price of the current most expensive movie ever. Avengers: Age of Ultron cost Disney $599 million when it was produced in 2015. 

Other films considered among the most expensive when it comes to production and budgeting include John Carter, which cost $547 million, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, which cost around $400 million per movie, and Cameron’s Titanic, which cost $410 million.  

The original Avatar is one of the highest grossing movies of all time, pulling in around $2.9 billion at the box office worldwide. Around $785 million of that was made in the US. The sequel opens in theaters on December 16. 

At the time the Avatar sequels were announced, the reported budget was $1 billion, or $250 million each, for four new installments. The only other sequels in Hollywood with budgets that big earmarked were Disney’s Avengers movies. 

Deadline reported at the time that production on the sequels had begun and that they would be made back-to-back. The first sequel was slated to be released in December 2020, the third in December 2021. The production has run very behind.

In September, Variety reported that Avatar: The Way of Water was estimated to make $649 million in the US. 

In September, Variety reported that Avatar: The Way of Water was estimated to make $649 million in the US

In September, Variety reported that Avatar: The Way of Water was estimated to make $649 million in the US

Cameron has previous in this area, at the time of their productions, Terminator 2 and True Lies, were among the most expensive movies ever made. Personally, multiple reports estimate the director’s net worth to be around $700 million. 

He told GQ: ‘Now I’m like, if I can make a business case to spend a billion dollars on a movie, I will f***ing do it.’

Cameron continued: ‘We don’t put it all on a pile and light it on fire. We give it to people. If the studio agrees and thinks it’s a good investment, as opposed to buying an oil lease off of the north of Scotland, which somebody would think was a good investment, why not do it?’ 

In a September interview with the Associated Press, Cameron said of his new opus: ‘It’s a big play. It’s a big bet. And we won’t know where we are until the second or third weekend. The success of the first film — we had a pretty good opening at $75 million. But openings are dwarfing that by factors of two or even three these days.’

He added: ‘Even if we have a stellar opening, we won’t really know where we are for a couple weeks because it was the return visits on the first one. It was people wanting to go share. If we get that again, we’ll probably be on solid ground.’

In the same interview, Cameron said that despite the fact that his movies have grossed around $6 billion, he still gets nervous prior to an opening. He said: ‘Anyone who says they don’t get nervous before a movie drops is a lying son of a (expletive).’

The Titanic director also said: ‘The market has changed. Twenty-five percent could be our entire margin. It’s one thing to make a lot of money, it’s another thing to actually make a profit.’

He continued: ‘We’re not going to keep making movies that lose money even though they look good and make a ton of money. This is a wait-and-see, let’s-put-it-out-there-and-see-if-people-embrace-it kind of situation.’ 

Actor Sam Worthington said 'The Way of Water' shows his character, Jake Sully, and Zoe Saldana's Neytiri as parents working to shield their family from harm

Actor Sam Worthington said ‘The Way of Water’ shows his character, Jake Sully, and Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri as parents working to shield their family from harm

The first ‘Avatar’ movie focused on a battle for natural resources between human colonists and the blue Na’vi people on a moon called Pandora.

Actor Sam Worthington said ‘The Way of Water’ shows his character, Jake Sully, and Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri as parents working to shield their family from harm.

‘This love story has evolved,’ Worthington said. ‘We now have a family and to be honest, to me, the movie is about protecting your family.’

‘Whether that’s an immediate family, it works on many levels. It could be a communal family, the family that we choose,’ he added.

Asked if she knew why it took Cameron so long to deliver a sequel, Saldana said ‘it’s his process.’

‘He’s an artisan. He takes his time. He does his research,’ she said.

Worthington said Cameron wrote an ‘Avatar 1.5’ script to help him work through what he wanted to say in the second movie.

‘He’s a man that cares about the story he’s telling and has dedicated a great portion of his life to telling, sharing this with the world,’ Worthington said.

He added that ‘The Way of Water’ will feel familiar to fans but ‘it’s not a rehash of the same story.’

The Top Ten Most Expensive Movies to Ever Made

If James Cameron’s estimates are accurate and Avatar: The Way of Water needs to make $2 billion just to break even, that would make it easily the most expensive movie ever made. 

More recent films have knocked historical classics that went horrendously over budget such as 1963’s Cleopatra, which in today’s money would have cost nearly $300 million to make. 

That number pales in comparison to the $500 million used to produce and market the Avengers movies, not to mention the more than $400 million spent on flops such as John Carter and The Lone Ranger. 

Here are the list of the most expensive movies ever, including production and marketing costs, with numbers adjusted for inflation: 

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – $599 million

The first Avengers sequel cost an astonishing $599 million for Disney to make on the back of an estimated $440 million plus production budget and more than $150 million marketing budget.

Despite this, the film was still a major financial success following its worldwide gross of over $1.4 billion. 

2. John Carter (2012) – $547 million

John Carter was a devastating failure at the box office, bringing in a paltry $100 million or so

John Carter was a devastating failure at the box office, bringing in a paltry $100 million or so

One of the most infamous flops of all time, Disney’s John Carter, which was supposed to spawn its own franchise, cost the animation king $547 million in production and marketing. 

The film was a devastating failure at the box office, bringing in around a paltry $100 million. Plans for sequels and spinoffs were all swiftly abandoned.  

3. Avengers: Endgame (2019) – $475 million

Avengers: Endgame, which surpassed Avatar, as the highest grossing film of all time when it was released in 2019, had a whopper budget of $475 in production and marketing. 

It proved to be a wise investment for Disney after it brought in $2.8 billion.  

4. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) $466 million

Disney’s 2018 Avengers sequel, Infinity War, had a mega production budget of more than $300 million on top of a marketing budget somewhere between $150 million and $170 million. 

Like its brothers, the film proved to be a moneymaking juggernaut for Disney, bringing in more than $2 billion worldwide.  

5. Titanic (1997) – $440 million

James Cameron's Titanic was a smash hit at the box office and even brought home 11 Academy Awards

James Cameron’s Titanic was a smash hit at the box office and even brought home 11 Academy Awards 

James Cameron’s Oscar winning 1998 blockbuster Titanic was one of the costliest films ever made when it was produced in the 1990s. 

Adjusting for inflation, the film’s then $200 million budget would be worth upwards of $365 million. That’s on top of the $75 million that Fox spent marketing the film across the world.

Like many movies on the list, it proved a worthy investment as the movie won 11 Academy Awards and made around $3.6 billion in todays money, adjusting for inflation. 

6. Waterworld (1995) – $438 million

Unlike Titanic, the other 1990s movie on the list, Waterworld, was not a worthy investment for the movie’s producers. 

Set in a futuristic world where the polar ice caps have melted and flooded the earth, the film became infamous as production costs spiraled of control and eventually ended up doubling.  

Costing $438 million in today’s money to produce as the budget spiraled out of control, the film was one of the worst reviewed films of the year and regularly appears on Worst Top 10 lists. 

Despite the negative publicity, in today’s money, the film made around $500 million worldwide, so not a poor showing. 

However, the critical reception and over-budgeting meant that Kevin Costner’s career never recovered.  

 7. Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides (2011) – $410 million

In terms of production budget alone, 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides is one of the costliest films to ever produce. 

Like its predecessors, marketing budget figures were not readily available, but according to Forbes, the entire budget was listed as $410.6 million in tax documents. Again it proved to be a worthwhile investment as the film brought in more than $1 billion in ticket sales.

 

8. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) – $405 million

The sixth movie in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince cost $405 million after marketing costs were taken into account.

The film raised $934 million at the box office.  

9. Justice League (2017) – $400 million

One of the more recent films where the budget spiraled out of control, Justice League so it’s budget go beyond it’s original $300 million after Joss Whedon was recruited to take over production when original director Zack Snyder’s daughter died.

Reshoots and reedits brought the budget to $400 million

10. The Lone Ranger (2013) – $400 million 

Johnny Depp's role as Tonto in The Lone Ranger was severely criticized, as was the film, despite this, it brought in $260 million at the box office

Johnny Depp’s role as Tonto in The Lone Ranger was severely criticized, as was the film, despite this, it brought in $260 million at the box office

Another hugely controversial entry, universally panned by critics and severely criticized over the casting of Johnny Depp as a Native American, Disney’s Lone Ranger was also hugely costly.

The movie’s production went $25 million over budget, going from $225 to $250, Disney also put $150 million into marketing the movie worldwide.

According Disney’s numbers, the film brought in $260 million.  

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