Every year has 52 weeks, and that’s 52 opportunities for every movie studio to get their movies to be on top of the box office during the opening weekend, and maybe even a weekend after that. When picking release dates, every huge studio like Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Paramount, and Sony want to find release dates for their movies that will bring them the most profit and avoid any competition at the same time.
Even though the pandemic of COVID-19 has hit hard on theaters all over the world and made a lot of people switch to streaming services, we wouldn’t say that theaters are dying. Sure, it’s going to take a while before some anticipated blockbusters start grossing billion dollars again. In 2019, nine movies grossed more than a billion dollars, and in 2020, no movie managed to gross more than $500 million. Now, in 2021, the highest-grossing American movie is No Time To Die, which grossed $765 million worldwide, and behind it is F9 with $726 million. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, it’s safe to say both of these would hit that famous billion-dollar mark.
For example, Shang-Chi was released last September, and it grossed $431 million. Although that may be below Marvel’s usual standards, it’s still a success given the circumstances, and the sequel is already in development. Venom 2, the movie that had the best domestic opening during the pandemic with $90 million, grossed $483 million, a lot less than its predecessor, but still a satisfying result for Sony, which already announced that Venom 3 is on the way. Now, the upcoming movie Spider-Man: No Way Home, regardless of the pandemic, is expected to break some box office records. Given the pre-sales, it’s not too ambitious to expect that this movie could gross around $200 million during the opening weekend.
So, thanks to the famous franchises and anticipated blockbusters, theaters are slowly going back into the business. So, what can be expected from the future? In only one year from now, we can expect two very anticipated blockbusters – James Wan’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and James Cameron’s Avatar 2 – and what’s even more interesting, both of them have the same release date – December 16, 2022.
The first Aquaman movie was released in December 2018, and it grossed $1.148 billion, which makes it the highest-grossing DC movie ever. On the other hand, the first Avatar movie, which was a far more ambitious project at the time, was released in December 2009, and it grossed $2.847 billion (re-releases included), which makes it the highest-grossing movie of all time. So, December surely is a good release window, but is there a place for both of them in December next year?
The end of the year, the holiday season, that’s always a great time to visit theaters, right? Blockbusters released in December were mostly always huge successes. Even in the early 2000s, with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy – three movies that were released in December 2001, 2002, and 2003, respectively. The Hobbit trilogy as well (December 2012, 2013, and 2014). Then, in 2015, Disney took over this release window with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first movie that grossed more than $2 billion since Avatar. Disney continued to release new Star Wars projects in December of 2016 (Rogue One), 2017 (The Last Jedi), and 2019 (Rise of Skywalker). Only December 2018 was taken over by Warner Bros’ Aquaman. Now, December 2021 is definitely the month of Spider-Man, but what about the next year?
Warner Bros. has set the release date for Aquaman 2 back when the release date for Avatar 2 was still December 2021. But then, Avatar 2 got delayed again, pushed right to a date that Aquaman already reserved. Disney (who acquired Avatar after buying Fox) already announced they’re planning to dominate box-office every December until 2028. There are four upcoming Avatar movies, and all of them are coming out in December (2022, 2024, 2026, 2028), as well as new Star Wars movies that are set to be released in December (2023, 2025, and 2027). When you look at that, it’s hard to believe any other studio would dare to release any blockbuster movie in December during the next few years, or maybe not?
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom still has a release date set for December 16, 2022, and it seems that WB isn’t intimidated by the competition of James Cameron’s revolutionary blockbuster, which could easily be the most anticipated movie of the decade. There’s only one year left, both Aquaman 2 and Avatar 2 are in post-production now, and it remains to be seen will any of them pull the plug on this release date and find another one where the competition isn’t so tough.
Considering Avatar 2 was delayed several times before (hell, it was originally planned for the release in 2014), it’s hard to believe that Disney would try to move the date again, especially because changing the date would also negatively affect other upcoming sequels. As for Aquaman 2, it remains to be seen, is WB really so brave to fight Avatar for the top spot of the opening weekend (and most likely lose it in our opinion), or they’ll try to find some other release window that isn’t so far from this one, but where their ship still wouldn’t sink in the box-office sea.
What do you think about all this? Should either of these movies change the release date, or go head-to-head?