‘Avatar’ marks 6 straight weeks at No. 1, crosses $2B

Sam Worthington as Jake Sully in a scene from “Avatar: The Way of Water.” 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS PHOTO VIA AP

NEW YORK CITY: 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 American and Canadian theaters over the weekend, according to studio estimates on Sunday. Its global total has now surpassed $2 billion, putting it in sixth on the list of the top-grossing movies of all time, just ahead of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Domestically, “The Way of Water” generated $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 of “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 also 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.

Top 10 films: 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.

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