How is Avatar 2 Still Making so Much Money!?

“You will shit yourself with your mouth wide open,” – James Cameron on the Avatar sequels [2014]

Let’s talk about Avatar, the highest-grossing movie of all time, a film that hasn’t left much cultural legacy outside of a horrifying trend of people painting themselves blue at Halloween in the 2010s. I am baffled by how a film which made so much money was so quickly forgotten, before 2022’s Avatar: The Way of Water came out and proceeded to tear up the all-time highest-grossing list. Seriously, what’s going on!?

Much like FarmVille, the original Avatar came out in 2009 and was like nothing we’d ever seen before, a money-printing, 3D spectacle that had to be experienced to be believed. It was truly a cultural event that everyone was talking about and those who didn’t complained about the amount of discourse it generated. The world has moved on since 2009 and in the modern era nobody cares about your virtual corn or blue people fighting against the latest American imperialism metaphor. Until James Cameron brought the long-anticipated Avatar sequel to cinemas in December 2022.

farmville facebook notification
The internet has come a long way

Quick FarmVille aside: it was low-key revolutionary game, combining real-time farming with Facebook and adding microtransactions. At its peak it had 60 million active users and introduced these concepts to the mainstream. And it’s still going!

According to the good people over at, Farmville 2, enjoys 1,000,000 monthly users as of January 2023. Facebook in the late 2000s: you had to be there and the same can be said for Avatar.

There’s probably more people playing Farmville than on Tumblr these days; whose users base, to my knowledge consists of Frank Ocean and people reading his periodic tumblings.

Frank Ocean at typewriter

This a long-winded way of saying that things we thought we left back in 2009 still have a stubbornly dedicated fanbase. In the years leading-up the release of Avatar: The Way of Water, many questioned whether there was still public appetite for a new film. A strange question: Considering the original is the highest-grossing movie of all-time [it re-took the top spot thanks to a 2021 cinematic re-release in China].

How can a film that grossed nearly $3 billion dollars worldwide, leave almost zero cultural footprint? Let’s compare Google Trends data for Avatar vs Twilight – admittedly there are more Twlight movies, but we haven’t see any cinematic releases of the series since 2012’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.

Throughout the past 5 years, everyone’s favourite shiny vampire love saga has consistently attracted more search interest than Avatar. A series with at least 4 total movies planned.

Avatar vs Twilight vs Hunger Games - Google Trends

Back when I was blown away by Avatar in cinemas in 2009, I remember hearing that James Cameron had plans to create a franchise around his blue cat people. I didn’t expect to ever see this come to fruition, let alone 12 years later, but here we are.

Isn’t it interesting that the sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time was stuck in development hell for so long? Disney certainly would have milked that cash cow dry. And now that they control the rights to the franchise, get ready for sequels and spinoffs until everyone we know is dead.

Titanic II film poster
*ahem* The Titanic II ship has sailed

I was highly dubious that a new Avatar movie would do anything of note at the box office, but as we’ve often learned, to doubt James Cameron is a huge mistake. The man behind such cultural touchstones as Titanic and the Terminator franchise has done it again.

Titanic James Cameron, Kate Winslet Leonardo DiCaprio
“No Leo, you definitely can’t also fit on here”

In February 2023,  Avatar: The Way of Water is the fourth highest-grossing film of all time, grossing $2.12 billion at the worldwide box office. It recently passed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which grossed $2.07 billion. People sat through a near 3-hour long sequel about cat people fighting imperialism in the water; and gave Cameron 3 of the 5 highest-grossing films of all-time. Again, we doubt him at our folly.

Highest Grossing Films of all Time - Worldwide February 2023

As a film, Avatar: The Way of Water is an enjoyable re-tread of the first movie and the obligatory cliches about a small group of indigenous people standing up to a technologically and numerically superior force of evil. 

And like the original, I had fun watching it at the cinema, but after I left, essentially forgot about it, aside from watching the box office figures continue to creep up over time. I can’t wait to see how the planned sequels fare when Cameron unleashes them from development hell on an unsuspecting and dubious public. ‘Surely he can’t do it again’, we’ll think to ourselves as we watch Avatar 3: Save the Trees run amok on the highest-grossing list.


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I think Terminator is a nice comparison, a franchise that started out with such promise and then devolved into a bloated mess that has somehow spawned 6 movies of declining quality. I’m eager to see how Cameron manages to further bloat up his latest franchise.

Finally, I think we need to take a closer look at this prophetic quote from James Cameron back in 2014 about his planned franchise:

“I can tell you one thing about them, they’re gonna be bitchin’. You will shit yourself with your mouth wide open.”

I was there in 2014. I can confirm no one was talking about Avatar, nor the prospect of shitting themselves after watching millions of sequels. But I think we all learned better than to doubt a man who casually uses the word ‘bitchin’ in 2014.

Bitchin Dog Food GTA3 factory
Honestly, I was shocked to hear ‘bitchin” outside GTA III

Thanks for reading. Now I must go, my auntie Doris has asked me to help pick corn on her virtual farm…

Host of Culture Hash, writer of music, TV and film opinions

2 Responses

  1. I don’t get it. If it’s made that much money .. why do I not know a single person that’s seen it or even cares about it? The first one, people talked about it. This one I haven’t heard a peep.

    • I find it so strange that such a financially successful film seems to have left such a small cultural footprint – when was the last time you had a chat about Avatar?

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