Avatar: The Way of Water Approved for Release in China

The Chinese government is careful in approving foreign films to be released within the country. However, Avatar: The Way of Water now has the go-ahead to be shown in China, per The Hollywood Reporter. It’s a sequel to Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time, which had also been approved for a China release, although only for a limited run.

Not many American films get released in China. Several Marvel movies, including Spider-Man: No Way Home, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, never hit Chinese theaters, as well as Lightyear and Top Gun: Maverick. Some classic movies banned in China include Back to the Future, the original Star Wars, and The Dark Knight. Foreign films get banned in China for many reasons, from displaying too much violence, showing LGBTQ characters, having religious themes, or depicting the Chinese government in a negative light.

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The Success of Avatar: The Way of Water Could Determine the Future of the Franchise

20th Century Studios

This is big news, even for Avatar fans outside of China. The previous film made around 262 million dollars in ticket sales in China alone. That’s about 9 percent of the $2.92 billion the film has made worldwide, including re-releases. Since the sequel needs to be one of the highest-grossing films of all time to break even on its massive budget, it will need to make even more money for a second sequel to get financed. The wider the release, the more money the film can score at the box office. James Cameron has previously stated that he wants a total of 5 Avatar movies to be made, so the performance of Avatar: The Way of Water at the box office will be instrumental in making those further sequels possible.

However, many films that scored a China release had to be edited somehow. This raises the question: has the studio decided to cut anything for the Chinese version? While we don’t have answers yet, we know that director James Cameron is very protective over editing the film after having clashed with an executive who had asked him to reduce the movie’s over three-hour runtime. That wasn’t the first time Cameron had to resist changes to his movie. When making the first Avatar film over 13 years earlier, the studio said that there were too many scenes with the dragon-like creature called the ikran, but Cameron refused to cut these scenes or shorten them. Cameron’s gamble paid off, and he’s taking more gambles with Avatar: The Way of Water.

The 13-year wait for the sequel to Avatar will soon be over when Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters on December 16th, 2022. Distributed by 20th Century Studios, with James Cameron as the director, producer, and writer, it will star Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and Kate Winslet.