Box Office: ‘Avatar 2’ Staying on Top, Above ‘Otto,’ ‘Plane’ Openings

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is still drawing audiences at the domestic box office, maintaining a substantial lead against competition as it looks to maintain the No. 1 spot for a fifth weekend.

Disney and 20th Century Studios’ science-fiction smash added $7 million from 4,035 locations on Friday, bolstering its total domestic total to an impressive $538.8 million. The film is looking to add roughly $36 million through the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. For the three-day frame ending Sunday, “Avatar 2” is projecting a drop of roughly 36% from last weekend.

Certainly “The Way of Water” isn’t putting up the type of superlative staying power that its predecessor did: James Cameron’s 2009 holiday release rode the wave of word of mouth with a series of week-to-week drops in January that never ballooned past 27%. However, “The Way of Water” is currently outpacing its preceding entry, with a $538 million total that outweighs the roughly $500 million haul that the first “Avatar” had accrued by MLK weekend in 2010.

“The Way of Water” currently stands as the 14th-highest grossing film of all time at the domestic box office, with 2019’s “The Lion King” ($543 million) and 2018’s “Incredibles 2” ($608 million) as the next releases to pass in the record books. The sci-fi sequel is the seventh-highest grossing film ever worldwide, with a global total of $1.7 billion and growing. With continued box office dominance and no high-profile competition on the immediate horizon, “The Way of Water” has a chance at becoming the first film to hit $2 billion worldwide since the start of the COVID pandemic.

“Avatar” isn’t the only film showing signs of strength at the domestic box office though. Universal’s horror-comedy “M3GAN” looks to land in second place, projecting $20 million over the four-day holiday frame. That’s a very solid hold for the Blumhouse and Atomic Monster production, which debuted to an impressive $30 million last weekend. Buzz remains strong around the film, as audiences keep lining up to meet that dancing, deadly doll.

Beyond those holdovers, the box office saw a group of new releases fending for eyeballs. Coming out strongest is Sony and Columbia Pictures’ “A Man Called Otto,” which expands wide this weekend, adding more than 3,000 theaters after beginning with a limited release over the holidays. The Tom Hanks dramedy looks to land in third, projecting a $14.9 million haul over the four-day frame to boost its domestic total to $21 million. That’s a very solid number for an adult-oriented original drama during the COVID era. Critics leaned positive on the film, but audiences are proving to be far more receptive.

Projecting a fifth place finish, Lionsgate’s thriller “Plane” took in a $3.5 million opening day from 3,023 locations. The film, carried by reliable action star Gerard Butler, is projecting a finish of $10 million over the four-day holiday frame.

Warner Bros.’ “House Party” will likely open outside of the top five. Initially produced for a streaming debut on HBO Max, the studio has pivoted to a modest wide release across 1,350 locations. The comedy remake is projecting a sub-$5 million opening across the four-day frame, not exactly making a dent at the box office.

Universal’s “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” looks to take fourth on domestic charts, projecting $16 million for the four-day holiday stretch. For the three-day frame, that’s a minimal 8% drop from last weekend. DreamWorks’ “Shrek” spinoff, which is already available to purchase on digital platforms, has emerged as the rare family film to become a solid success at the pandemic era box office. Now in its fourth weekend, the film will blast past the $100 million domestic mark on Saturday; the worldwide total currently stands at $206 million.

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