The Quorum

Will AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER artificially inflate the numbers for DOCTOR STRANGE?

There were several big moments from CinemaCon 2022. TOP GUN MAVERICK more than lived up to the hype, Lionsgate announced the return to the HUNGER GAMES universe with THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES coming in 2023, and Warner Bros. gave us a still image of Margot Robbie as BARBIE. 

But there was another news nugget that didn’t get a ton of press coverage, and that was Disney’s decision to release a theatrical-only trailer for AVATAR: THE WAY OF THE WATER. That’s right; the trailer will not be released online, at least for now. 

Instead, it will be attached to DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, meaning if you want to see the new AVATAR 2 spot, you’ve got to buy a ticket for STRANGE. 

It’s a move that makes total sense if you think about it. The first film was a visual landmark that ushered in the wave of 3D films in the late 2000s. The sequel looks to be another feast for the eyes. Disney is smart for wanting people to experience the trailer in the format the film is designed for. Watching it on YouTube is not going to give viewers the same thrill.

And, if it happens to sell a few more tickets for STRANGE, that’s not such a bad thing. 

This certainly isn’t the first time a trailer has gone theatrical only. In 1998, the teaser for STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE was placed in front of three movies: THE WATERBOY, MEET JOE BLACK, and THE SEIGE. Tickets sales surged for all three films.

The challenge for Disney is to make AVATAR feel big again. The original film came out over 12 years ago, and it’s fair to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has usurped its place in the zeitgeist. So it seems somewhat appropriate that AVATAR 2 is being hitched to a Marvel film to make it feel larger than life. 

We wanted to know if this strategy would work. Will the AVATAR 2 trailer drive ticket sales for STRANGE? We polled over 500 people to find out. Keep in mind, a good chunk of people, 36% to be specific, were planning to see STRANGE without the AVATAR 2 spot. We were interested in knowing how many people were NOT going to see STRANGE but said they would buy a ticket just to see the AVATAR 2 trailer. 

According to our study, 15% said they had no plans to see STRANGE but would go to the theater just for the AVATAR 2 spot. That’s a significant number. As the STRANGE grosses start rolling in, it’s important to remember that those numbers will be inflated by AVATAR fans. For example, if STRANGE opens to $150M, does that mean it would have made closer to $130M without AVATAR 2 in front?

Do we need to add an asterisk next to the STRANGE grosses in the record books? No, of course not, but it’s certainly something to consider in giving context to the box office numbers this upcoming weekend. 

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