Good news for James Cameron and giant blue cat-people aficionados alike: The Way of Water, the Avatar sequel, has made more than $1.7 billion and counting, paving the way for those three additional sequels the director has had planned. For Cameron, it’s a sign that people have had “enough with the streaming already!” But... have they?
Speaking to Variety last night during the Golden Globes’ digital pre-show, Cameron said he saw The Way of Water’s success as a repudiation of streaming and a re-embrace of theatrical releases: “We’re going back to theaters around the world. They’re even going back to theaters in China where they’re having this big covid surge. We’re saying as a society, ‘We need this! We need to go to theaters.’ Enough with the streaming already! I’m tired of sitting on my ass.”
First of all, it seems James Cameron does not actually know how to watch a theatrical release, because people tend to sit down to watch movies wherever they are. Second, it’s worth noting that The Way of Water is the sequel to literally the highest-grossing movie of all time, and it’s currently only available to see in theaters. Of course it’s doing well, but there’s no way to know how many people would have elected to stay home to watch it if that option had been available.
But I’m going to give Cameron and the film credit here. I believe if Avatar: The Way of Water had been made available on, say, HBO Max the same day it premiered in theaters, most people would still have left their homes to see it. Why? Well, 95 percent of the draw of the Avatar movies is their visual spectacle, which can be best experienced in theaters—but more importantly, that visual spectacle is best enjoyed in 3D, which, again, is only available outside the home, unless you’re one of the 29 people who bought 3D TVs back in 2011 or so. (Also, James? The fact that people in China are going to watch TWoW in theaters during a covid surge isn’t a good thing.)
Either way, maybe a world where big-time movies get released in theaters and/or home streaming services is okay, and we don’t need to judge people for preferring one or keep predicting the death of one at the other’s hands. But we can judge Cameron for saying a weird gaffe that made it sound like he doesn’t know people watch movies sitting down.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.