Sequel to 'Avatar' gets Chinese mainland release date, increases confidence in film market
Published: Nov 24, 2022 02:02 AM
Poster of Avatar: The Way of Water Photo: Screenshot from website

Poster of Avatar: The Way of Water Photo: Screenshot from website

Hollywood blockbuster Avatar: The Way of Water, the sequel to the 2009 hit Avatar, is set to hit the big screen in the Chinese mainland on December 16, the same day as in North America. The news of the release date has excited moviegoers and industry insiders expressed confidence for its market performance, at a time when the film market has been lukewarm amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

20th Century Studios announced the release date in a post on Wednesday on Sina Weibo alongside a Chinese trailer for the film.

After the June release of US sci-fi action series film Jurassic World Dominion in the Chinese mainland, where it earned more than 1 billion yuan ($139.8 million), no Hollywood movie or other overseas films have performed well in China.

This has led to hopes being placed on the new Avatar film from director James Cameron as the first Avatar film was a huge success. The film went on to become the highest-earning film in the world, only losing the title to Avengers: Endgame in 2019. However, with recent re-releases of the film, it has taken back the crown and currently sits at $2.922 billion.

According to data on Chinese movie ticketing platform Maoyan, more than 600,000 netizens have added the movie in their “want to watch” lists after the release date was announced, causing the film to rise to the top of the soon-to-be released films on the platform.

“The release of the film will lift up the Chinese film market, providing a ‘timely rain’ for cinemas suffering from the drought caused by the pandemic,” Beijing-based film critic Shi Wenxue told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Shi noted that when the first Avatar was introduced to China 13 years ago, millions of Chinese moviegoers crowded into cinemas to see it even though the size of the film market at the time was limited, while now China has the biggest number of cinema screens in the world – 80,000 screens – including more than 700 IMAX theaters.

“If there will still be around 60 percent of cinemas in the country open when the new movie is released, I predict and hope the box office will reach 6 billion yuan,” Shi said.

A film industry analyst at Maoyan told the Global Times that due to the current outbreak of COVID-19, about 60 percent of cinemas nationwide have remained open over the past month, an average of 7,400 cinemas running nationwide. 

However, according to available data, more than 700 additional cinemas nationwide reopen on the weekends. This indicates that about 10 percent of cinemas remain shut on the weekdays because of lower revenues but are willing to open during peak periods, which also reflects the market's thirst for films, the analyst said.

“I have been ready to buy tickets and return to the cinema. I hope the pandemic situation is eased at that time so that cinemas can open,” one Sina Weibo user commented.

The sequel returns five years after the original movie to the life of Jake Sully, who is living with his newfound family on the moon Pandora. However, a familiar threat returns to finish what was previously started, so Jake must work with his mate Neytiri and the army of the Na'vi race to protect their home.