James Cameron's mantra seems to be "Go big or go home!". Just last year, after a long 13-year wait, Avatar: The Way of Water, the highly anticipated sequel to Avatar, finally made its way into theaters. True to Cameron's style, the film shattered records, raking in an astonishing $2.3 billion worldwide and securing its spot as the third highest-grossing film of all time. But the real shocker is the film's phenomenal success on streaming platforms.
On June 7, Avatar 2 was added to Disney+ and the newly revamped HBO streaming service, Max, and in just five days, one of history's highest-grossing films has dominated the streaming world, attracting a staggering 2.6 million households to watch it, as reported by Samba TV.
Now, keep in mind that the epic sci-fi film is exclusively available on just two streaming platforms. It's even more impressive when we take into account that Avatar 2 has been playing in theaters since December last year.
Let's take a look at some stats for other films (courtesy of Samba TV), just to make a fair comparison.
Disney+ 5-day viewership stats
- Soul (released direct-to-streaming) - 2.4 million
- Thor: Love and Thunder - 2.2 million
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - 2.1 million
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - 2.1 million
- Eternals - 2 million
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - 1.7 million
- Lightyear - 1.7 million
- Black Widow - 1.1 million
- Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania - 966,000
HBO Max 5-day viewership stats
- Mortal Kombat - 3.8 million
- Godzilla vs. Kong - 3.6 million
- The Suicide Squad - 2.8 million
- Wonder Woman 1984 - 2.2 million
- Space Jam: A New Legacy - 2.1 million
- Dune - 1.7 million
*Note: All films on this list were released on the same date on HBO Max and in theaters.
Through simple analysis, one cannot help but marvel at the extraordinary success of Avatar 2 on streaming platforms. The advent of streaming services took flight in 2020 as a consequence of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on theaters worldwide.
Studios found themselves compelled to postpone film releases or resort to direct-to-streaming options, which affected the films' ability to achieve their full financial potential.
Right when studio executives were convinced that streaming was the future, Marvel Studios pulled a curveball with Spider-Man: No Way Home, which was exclusively released in theaters worldwide. Breaking records left and right, the film raked in a mind-boggling $1.9 billion in global earnings, despite the mounting concerns surrounding the Omicron COVID variant.
On the flip side, a number of films, including acclaimed titles like Damien Chazelle's Babylon, Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans, Tar, and Women Talking, failed to make a splash at the box office despite garnering multiple awards during the awards season.
While these were considered prestige films not aimed at massive profits, their lackluster performance clearly indicated that the influence of streaming services had firmly taken hold in the film industry.
The ongoing battle between streaming and theaters shows no signs of slowing down, and savvy studios are starting to realize that the ideal scenario is a film that dominates at the box office and continues to draw audiences when it arrives on streaming platforms.
Nintendo's The Super Mario Bros. Movie is one such film that will be hoping to ride its success from the big screen onto the streaming arena.
Sitting comfortably atop the list of 2023's highest-grossing films, with an astounding global haul of over $1.3 billion, the Universal Pictures film is set to make its debut on NBCU's streaming service, Peacock, on June 28. Universal's eyes are now fixed on its next big release, Oppenheimer, which is expected to dominate theaters before eventually making its way to streaming platforms.
Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated film has secured a theatrical window of no less than 100 days, which is exactly how Nolan prefers it. This ensures a potentially massive return on investment, especially if it succeeds during its opening weekend.