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Avatar: The Way of Water, Top Gun: Maverick lead 2022 Box Office

Cairns on Cinema - Our annual Box Office Year in Review points to two clear winners.
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This month’s Cairns on Cinema looks back at the biggest box office winners of 2022.

REGINA - Welcome to our annual Movie Box Office Year in Review, this time looking back at the year 2022.

In a lot of ways, it was “back to normal” at the movie cinemas after the pandemic restrictions and overall total chaos of the previous two years. But the whole industry is still dealing with the after-effects, with more people opting to stay at home and watch movies via the digital route. 

The overall North American box office stood at $7.3billion, which sounds good until you realize that it was $11.3 billion pre-pandemic in 2019. 

So, why this big drop, even with life returning to normal?

One reason that seemed to stand out was  fewer big-time blockbuster releases in 2022 than the usual pre-pandemic. We didn’t have a Star Wars movie this year, for instance, we didn’t have a James Bond movie, we didn’t have a Fast and Furious movie. Yes, Marvel was at it again with another Black Panther movie, and with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and there was the last Jurassic Park movie with Jurassic World: Dominion. 

It seems obvious there is still some collateral damage from the lack of production in 2020 and 2021, which pushed back the release of so many blockbuster movies. As prime examples the two biggest movies of this past year, Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water, both had been delayed from their original release dates. Top Gun: Maverick was supposed to be released in the summer of 2020. Avatar: The Way of Water had been originally scheduled for December of 2021.

So that was my initial thought, that there just weren’t many compelling titles or franchises out there to bring in the masses this year. But then I took another look at the domestic North American box office, and there were eight movies that made over $300 million. The number eight movie for 2022 was Thor: Love and Thunder, which brought in $343 million. That’s a hit movie! 

Looking at it more in depth, the problem really isn’t at the top. It's more that the other releases right on down the line earned less and less. In 2019, it was the entire top ten movies that earned over $300 million, two more than 2022, so there were definitely fewer blockbusters this past year. Also in 2019, 31 movies cracked $100 million at the domestic box office. This year, it’s only 17.

That tells you that the “feast or famine” aspect of the theatre box office is now more pronounced than ever. More people are staying at home taking advantage of the greater access to digital releases. Also, more people are suffering from the inflation and affordability pressures that are impacting all entertainment options. That surely explains what’s going on.

Now here is a look at the box office winners for 2022 releases. Here are the domestic North America box office numbers as compiled at Box Office Mojo up to Jan 6: 

  1. Top Gun: Maverick $718,732,821
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water $464,958,728
  3. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever $441,453,206
  4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness $411,331,607
  5. Jurassic World: Dominion $376,851,080
  6. Minions: The Rise of Gru $369,695,210
  7. The Batman $369,345,583
  8. Thor: Love and Thunder $343,256,830
  9. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 $190,872,904
  10. Black Adam $168,113,058

So, this is where we stand right now with this summer's Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick in the top spot. The question now is really whether Avatar: The Way of Water, 3D sequel sci-fi masterpiece from James Cameron, can catch up. It has won the weekend Box Office three weeks in a row and has been doing steady business so far, and is now heading into January and February when it is not facing a lot of compelling competition.

If it can attract another $255 million or so in the coming weeks, it will take the domestic box office title for the year, but it’s a tall order right now.

Now here is the worldwide numbers and these are more definitive:

Avatar: Way of Water $1516,558,728

Top Gun: Maverick $1,488,732,821

Jurassic World: Dominion $1,002,978,080

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness $955,775,804

Minions: The Rise of Gru $939,628,210

Based on these numbers Avatar: The Way of Water is clearly the global box office winner for 2022, as it continues to rake in the money worldwide. However it is not likely to come close to the all-time box office record set by the original Avatar. The 2009 original, which actually got a re-release in 2022, currently stands at $2.922 billion just ahead of Avengers: Endgame at $2.797 billion. 

So the Avatar sequel is your global box office champ, and we shall see what happens in the coming weeks and whether Top Gun: Maverick can hold onto the domestic Number One.

Either way, both are the big winners of the box office for 2022. That is all for my 2022 Box Office Year in Review.