The first couple of months of the year are traditionally a bit of a box office dead zone. Many people’s bank accounts are suffering a hangover from Christmas shopping, there’s the general post-holiday blues, and the short winter days and cold weather make bundling up inside in front of the TV a more appealing prospect than venturing out to the movie theater. Typically studios avoid major new releases in January and February, instead using them as “dump months” for movies they don’t have much faith in.
This can be good news, however, for holiday tentpoles like “Avatar: The Way of Water,” with a lack of fresh competition offering a free run at the box office. In particular, this film can continue to have a monopoly over IMAX screens, whose premium price tickets contribute to bigger box office numbers, until “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” releases on February 17. “The Way of Water” could also get a boost after January 24, when Oscar nominations are announced, depending on how many categories it lands in (Best Visual Effects seems like a no-brainer). The first “Avatar” was nominated in nine categories, and won three.
Movie releases with long theatrical runs are becoming a rarity, with many now moving to streaming after just a few weeks. This is bad news for theaters, which typically get a larger cut of the ticket sales in later weeks, but have been hit with shorter release windows since the pandemic. If “Avatar: The Way of Water” continues to perform strongly in the weeks to come, it could be a much-needed lifeline for the big screen experience as theaters continue to fight for their place in the shifting landscape of cinema.