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Sequel Tracking for Mega Opening  

The long-awaited sequel Avatar: The Way of Water should open to at least $150 million-$170 million when sailing into North American theaters on Dec. 16, according to early tracking.

Directed by James Cameron,The Way of Water hits the big screen more 13 years after Avatar made history in becoming the top-grossing film of all time at the global box office, a crown it still wears today with more than $2.92 billion in ticket sales, not adjusted for inflation.

In addition to coming on tracking on Wednesday morning, Disney said Tuesday night that The Way of Water has landed a coveted China release.

The first Avatar opened to $77 million over the Dec. 18-20 weekend in 2009, and then enjoyed extraordinary legs.

The Way of Water is 30 minutes longer than Avatar, or three hours and 10 minutes, meaning the sequel will have fewer showtimes.

Avatar 2 hopes to join an elite club of longer Hollywood tentpoles that have done blockbuster business in theaters, including Avengers: Endgame (three hours and 2 minutes) and Cameron’s Titanic (three hours and 14 minutes). The two films rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, on Comscore’s list of the top-grossing movies of all time at the worldwide box office behind Avatar, not adjusted for inflation.

Disney inherited the Avatar franchise when buying up 21th Century Fox, including 20th Century.

Cameron produced the sequel alongside his longtime Lightstorm partner Jon Landau. Stars Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang showed off footage D23 in September. Much of the footage showed off Cameron’s immersive underwater work.

Not long after D23, Disney and 20th Century issued a remastered version of the first Avatar in order to prime audiences for the sequel. The rerelease grossed an impressive $76 million-plus at the global box office, bringing the film’s current gross to more than $2.92 billion.

Way of Water once again centers on Worthington’s Sully and Saldaña’s Na’vi character, Neytiri. It picks up a decade after the original and follows their family, with additional stars, including franchise newcomers Vin Diesel and Kate Winslet.

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