Avatar: The Way of Water continues to make waves at the box office.
The film has earned over $1.7 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2022 and the seventh-highest-grossing film of all time.
And as the film approaches $2 billion, director James Cameron says these benchmarks show a resurgence in moviegoers watching films in theaters.
“We’re saying as a society, ‘We need this! We need to go to theaters.’ Enough with the streaming already! I’m tired of sitting on my ass,” Cameron told Variety on Tuesday during a digital pre-show for the Golden Globes.
But while Cameron may have slammed streaming, fans are clamoring to know when Avatar: The Way of Water will debut on Disney+.
Though Disney+ has yet to announce a release date, other films offer clues.
Don’t expect Avatar 2 on streaming anytime soon
The majority of recent films have premiered on the streamer between 45 days to 90 days after their theatrical debut. Black Widow, for instance, was released on Disney+ for free 90 days after it hit theaters, though it was accessible on Disney+ on the same day it arrived in theaters for $30. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness debuted on Disney+ 48 days after its initial release on the big screen.
So it would reason that the film, which hit theaters on Dec. 16, 2022, would premiere on the streamer anywhere from Jan. 30 to March 16.
However, the likelihood of the film debuting on Disney+ in the next few weeks isn’t that high.
As we’ve already established, the film is a huge box office success, so pulling it from theaters early to air it for free on Disney+ makes no sense financially.
For one, the film was very expensive, with an estimated budget of $250 million.
Cameron told GQ for Avatar: The Way of Water to earn a profit, it’d “have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history.”
“That’s your threshold. That’s your breakeven,” the director added.
And just to put that in context, the top five highest-grossing films of all time, which includes Avatar, all made over $2 billion, so it stands to reason Disney executives won’t think about its streaming debut until it crosses that figure.
Moreover, the release date could be later than March 16 as Disney is not beholden to the 45-90 day rule, as seen by its release of Strange World on Disney+ a mere 30 days after its theatrical debut. The film was a box office flop, so a box office success like Avatar: The Way of Water could also break the rule and air on Disney+ after 90 days.
The film may stay in theaters for at least 234 days
And seeing as how the original film stayed in theaters for 234 days, it stands to reason Disney would want to keep the sequel in theaters for as long as possible. So that number may be the benchmark, especially considering Cameron’s disdain for streaming. If that’s the case, you can look for the film on Disney+ in August 2023.
Another possibility is that the movie will only be accessible as a download or rental, with a later streaming option available. This was the case with Top Gun: Maverick, which was available for rent in August but wasn’t available on Paramount+ until seven months after its release. If so, Avatar: The Way of Water might be available for purchase or rental around March 2023, but Disney+ wouldn’t start streaming it until later in the year.
So, taken altogether, don’t expect a streaming debut on Disney+ until at least March 2023, but something tells us the premiere date will happen much later. So you might want to do as Cameron says and go to a theater to see the film.