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'Avatar' marks 6 straight weeks at No. 1 as it surpasses $2 billion in ticket sales

This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Jake Sully, portrayed by Sam Worthington, in "Avatar: The Way of Water."
AP
This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Jake Sully, portrayed by Sam Worthington, in "Avatar: The Way of Water."

NEW YORK — James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water led ticket sales in movie theaters for the sixth straight weekend, making it the first film to have such a sustained reign atop the box office since 2009's Avatar.

The Walt Disney Co.'s The Way of Water added $19.7 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. Its global total has now surpassed $2 billion, putting it sixth all-time and just ahead of Spider-Man: No Way Home. Domestically, The Way of Water is up to $598 million. Continued robust international sales ($56.3 million for the weekend) has helped push the Avatar sequel to $2.024 billion worldwide.

A year ago, Spider-Man: No Way Home also topped the box office for six weekends, but did it over the course of seven weeks. You have to go back to Cameron's original Avatar to find a movie that stayed No. 1 for such a long span. (Avatar ultimately topped out at seven weeks.) Before that, the only film in the past 25 years to manage the feat was another Cameron film; "Titanic" (1997) went undefeated for 15 weeks.

The Way of Water has now reached a target that Cameron himself set for the very expensive sequel. Ahead of its release, Cameron said becoming "the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history" was "your break even."

The box-office domination for The Way of Water has been aided, in part, by a dearth of formidable challengers. The only new wide release from a major studio on the weekend was the thriller Missing, from Sony's Screen Gems and Stage 6 Films. A low-budget sequel to 2018's Searching, starring Storm Reid as a teenager seeking her missing mother, Missing plays out across computer screens. The film, budgeted at $7 million, debuted with $9.3 million.

January is typically a slow period in theaters, but a handful of strong-performing holdovers have helped prop up sales.

Though it didn't open hugely in December, Universal Pictures' Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has had long legs as one of the only family options in theaters over the last month. In its fifth week, it came in second place with $11.5 million domestically and $17.8 million overseas. The "Puss in Boots" sequel has grossed $297.5 million globally.

The creepy doll horror hit M3gan, also from Universal, has likewise continued to pull in moviegoers. It notched $9.8 million in its third week, bringing its domestic haul to $73.3 million.

And while the popularity of horror titles in theaters is nothing new, Sony Pictures' A Man Called Otto, starring Tom Hanks, has flourished in a marketplace that's been trying for adult-oriented dramas. The film, a remake of the Swedish film A Man Called Ove, about a retired man whose suicide plans are continually foiled by his neighbors, made $9 million in its second week of wide release. It's taken in $35.3 million domestically through Sunday.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. Avatar: The Way of Water, $19.7 million.

2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, $11.5 million.

3. M3gan, $9.8 million

4. Missing, $9.3 million.

5. A Man Called Otto, $9 million.

6. Plane, $5.3 million.

7. House Party, $1.8 million.

8. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime The Movie, $1.5 million.

9. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, $1.4 million.

10. The Whale, $1.3 million.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press