China Box Office Pre-Sales for Avatar Sequel Exceed $14.3M

On December 16, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” James Cameron’s highly anticipated science-fiction blockbuster sequel, will be officially released in China. As of December 10, pre-sale box office proceeds for the film had exceeded 100 million yuan ($14.3 million), and its total box office earnings in the country are expected to ultimately break 3 billion yuan. Meanwhile, the film’s high ticket prices have become a heated topic in online forums.

Canadian filmmaker James Cameron (Source: Twitter user “@officialavatar”)

According to some social media posts, outrageous prices emerged in first-tier cities including Shanghai and Shenzhen, such as 358 yuan ($51.3) and 450 yuan for a single ticket. However, these cases were later revealed to be either test screenings or special premieres including film-related activities and catering, so they do not represent average ticket prices. According to Maoyan, an online movie ticketing website, as of 20:00 on December 9, the national average pre-sale price to see Avatar was 91.5 yuan, and 138.5 yuan in an IMAX cinema. This is indeed much higher than most movies.

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Maoyan analyst Liu Zhenfei said in an interview that, although pre-sale ticket prices for Avatar are indeed higher than the 2020 average of 41.8 yuan, because the film lasts 192 minutes – 1.5 times longer than the average film – prices are bound to increase by 50%. At the same time, the movie will be played in various special cinemas like IMAX, driving prices higher.

Ticket prices in first-tier Chinese cities have significantly pushed up the national average, reflecting viewers’ higher requirements for film-watching experiences. Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou alone now host 124 of mainland China’s 760 IMAX screens.

(Source: Twitter user “@officialavatar”)

The box office appeal of “Avatar: The Way of Water” is already evident, suggesting that viewers’ enthusiasm has not been dampened by the relatively high ticket prices. As the Chinese film industry looks to recover from a challenging few year, the release of Avatar is undoubtedly a significant boost.

Box office revenue generated by the new Avatar film will also bring in considerable income for distributors and cinemas. According to a Maoyan employee, non-Chinese films adopt a split-account model, whereby, after deducting 5% of the special fund fee and 3.3% of the special business tax, the remaining box office is divided into four parts. About 25% returns to overseas filmmakers, 15.5% goes to Chinese distributors China Film Group Corporation and Huaxia Film Distribution, and 2.5% goes to China Film Digital, Ltd. as agency fees. The remaining 57% of proceeds will go to the cinemas.

As Chinese authorities loosen the zero-COVID policy, cinemas across the county have accelerated their resumption of work, driving operating rates higher. According to data from Maoyan, on December 9, total box office proceeds totaled 17.159 million yuan and there were 8,438 operating cinemas. The national operating cinema rate recovered to 67.87%, while the attendance rate was 1.78%.