James Cameron Cuts The Net As King Of The World Wins Deadline’s 2022 Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament: The Data Behind The Dollars

Avatar: The Way of Water, Breaking News, Disney, Exhibition, Film News, James Cameron, Movie Profits, Paramount, Top Gun: Maverick, Universal

James Cameron climbs the ladder to cut the net for winning Deadline’s 2022 Most Valuable Blockbuster Movie Tournament after Avatar: The Way of Water cleared over a half-billion dollars in profit after all ancillaries.

Given the sleeper nature of this sequel, and given the overall boom expected from this year’s global box office to $32 billion ( up 24% from 2022), if there’s a takeaway on theatrical’s track record moving forward, it’s that more premium theaters — like PLF, 4DX and Screen X — are needed. Those are the formats that made Avatar: The Way of Water a success, and by which moviegoers scheduled their viewing. If the motion picture industry wants to continue making moviegoing a better option than in-home viewing, it’s not just with product but also with the cinematic experience.

Cameron joins a line of filmmakers who’ve led Deadline’s Blockbuster Tournament in previous years including Joe and Anthony Russo, J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson and Illumination boss Chris Meledandri. For Disney, it’s another movie finishing No. 1, following previous winners Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War from Marvel and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Cameron will remain busy for the next five years with more potential Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament crowns: Avatar 3 is scheduled to open December 20, 2024, Avatar 4 is set for December 18, 2026, and Avatar 5 is slated to hit screens on December 22, 2028.

While the closure of theaters from 2020-2021 put Deadline’s tournament on hold for those years, what has been clear after the major studios got all the theatrical day-and-date experimentation out of their systems is that there’s no better way of making money than maximizing box office revenue in a downstream waterfall model. That goes for the movies that bombed as well. Global marketing campaigns translate into money for all sorts of ancillary windows, raise a pic’s profile and breathe fire into merchandise and theme parks down the road. Already, Apple and Amazon are embracing big theatrical windows first, seeing that a huge release means a significant amount to their respective ecosystems of tech products and online shopping. As streaming becomes more mature, industry sources tell us that there will be a greater competition in ancillary markets for premium film product.

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Differences remain among studios on what the proper length of a theatrical window is — in the case of Marvel movies and several tentpoles, they’re quite long. It was roughly three months before Paramount took Top Gun: Maverick to digital in-homes, and 210 days before the studio put Tom Cruise’s highest-grossing movie of all time on its streaming service and Epix.

Universal saw a number of its films rank this year both profit-wise (Minions: Rise of Gru, Jurassic World Dominion and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish) and on the big-margin list (low-budget genre titles M3GAN and The Black Phone). These successes were achieved off a 17-day theatrical-to-Premium VOD model for films that opened to less than $50M, and 31 days for those that opened north of that threshold. So far, Universal has seen that theatrical, particularly on family titles, isn’t greatly cannibalized when a movie is available both in homes and in theaters — they’ve been able to double-dip and reap.

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It remains to be seen whether that practice continues for other types of movies. Universal’s embrace of such a model stems from its parent company, Comcast, being a cable company first.

For now, with Covid’s ease, theatrical windows remain more than a solid business.

Big thanks here to Deadline Co-Editor-in-Chief Mike Fleming Jr, Executive Managing Editor Patrick Hipes and Photo Editor Robert Lang in their help with executing this year’s tournament.

Deadline’s 2022 Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament At a Glance

Click on the links to dive deeper into each movie.

Rank | Movie (Distributor) | Profit

1. Avatar: The Way Of Water (Disney) – $531.7M
2. Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount) – $391.1M
3. Minions: The Rise of Gru (Universal) – $382.0M
4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Disney) – $284.0
5. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney) – $259.0M
6. Jurassic World Dominion (Universal) – $229.7M
7. The Batman (Warner Bros) – $177.0M
8. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) – $120.2M
9. Thor: Love and Thunder (Disney) – $103.0M
10. Smile (Paramount) – $101.0M

Small Movies/Big Profits: M3GAN (Uni), $78.8M; Where the Crawdads Sing (Sony), $74.7M; The Black Phone (Uni), $67.8M; Scream (Par), $56.7M; Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24), $32M

Bombs: Strange World (Dis), -$197.4M; Amsterdam (Dis), -$108.4; Lightyear (Dis), -$106M; Devotion (Sony), -$89.2M; Babylon (Par), -$87.4M

Below is the Top 10 breakdown (scroll to see all films):

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