Movie Earnings: Avatar (2009)

Does the Movie Meet the Hype or Is It a Fraud?

If you haven’t heard about Avatar and how successful the movie was, we will start to believe that you live under a rock (no jokes). 

After all, this movie is the highest-grossing film globally, and although it was dethroned for a few months, it came back without hesitation. 

But what made the movie so famous when it came out? And even now, when it has been over a decade, why do people continue to talk about it so much and care for anything that happens? 

To answer these questions and many more, we’ll have to jump into some details and make sure we’re not missing anything from when the idea came up and how it reached the cinemas to make history. 

Making a Top Movie: Production & History

When you have a big project in mind, it is inevitable to bring many people in. After all, it isn’t only about the actors and actresses but also all the production team involved. 

In the case of Avatar, this was a project that challenged many, including the director, producer, and writer himself, James Cameron. 

The story had come a long way since, unlike many people believe, it didn’t start a few months or years before the film was announced. 

In 1994, James Cameron wrote an 80-page treatment of Avatar. He drew inspiration from both science fiction books he had grown up reading and adventure novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. 

Although the movie was set to be produced in 1997 to release in 1999, Cameron decided to focus on documentaries and wait for technology to improve over the next few years since he felt it lacked to bring such a movie and idea to life. 

In a Bloomberg BusinessWeek story, it was revealed that $10 million had been provided by 20th Century Fox to Cameron for a proof-of-concept clip for Avatar, which showed to Fox executives in October 2005.

The director announced in February 2006 that “Project 880” was a retooled version. He had previously tried to make the film years before. Cameron had completed a five-day camera testing in the year prior.

Cameron worked on the script from January 2006 to April 2006. He also created a culture for the aliens, the Na’vi, during this time. 

He also started to work with a few designers from 2005 to 2007. These included Wayne Barlowe, a renowned fantasy illustrator, and Jordu Schell. They helped to design the Na’vi’s design with paintings and sculptures. 

A lot of logistics has to be dealt with in order to make this project happen, and Camero worked hard to determine the best options to make the characters a possibility. 

The budget available for the movie was a problem. However, Avatar began to be filmed in April 2007 against all odds. 

Going back to the team, Cameron took his respective role as director and producer, with Jon Landau playing the latter role as well. 

In order to finally make the movie real, production companies like Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners, and Lightstorm Entertainment had to be involved besides 20th Century Fox. However, this latter was responsible for its distribution.

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Avatar’s Plot – What Is the Hype About?

Following an original storyline written by James Cameron, you will notice there’s nothing compared to it. 

Of course, Avatar does have some similitude with other plots and sci-fi movies, but the extension of the film goes further than others until this date: 

The story follows paraplegic Marine Jake Sully, who takes his brother’s place for a mission to the distant world called “Pandora” after the latter was killed in a robbery. 

Jake is offered the chance to have his legs fixed by spinal surgery in exchange for learning about the Indigenous Race called Na’vi and their culture to provide information for the military unit that is cooperating with Colonel Quaritch. 

To do this, he infiltrates the Na’vi people using an “avatar.” As Jake continues to visit them, he starts to bond with the tribe and falls in love with the alien Neytiri. 

During his stay and mission, he learns about Parker Selfridge, a corporate figurehead who wants to drive off the native humanoid called Na’vi from their territory in order for him to mine the valuable material found within their forest.

Colonel Quaritch’s main mission is to exterminate the natives. As a result, Jake has to take a stand in this battle to either protect Pandora or follow his initial mission and avoid interfering in the Colonel’s tactics. 

The concept of Avatar is based on aliens or new civilizations to whom we should be able to connect. 

Our main character’s journey, Jake, will allow you to feel identified as a human in difficulties and trying to make a tough decision and bond with the Na’vi and how they see the world. 

For this movie to take place, several actors and actresses were involved, being the main cast: 

  • Sam Worthington as Jake Sully.
  • Zoe Saldana as Neytiri.
  • Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles.
  • Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacón.
  • Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine.

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Road to History: Box Office & Reception

When you have a film announced and pushed back several times, it is inevitable to have an audience eager to finally see the result. 

Since 2009 was a year when 3D projectors were barely installed in theaters, it was hard for some locations to be ready for the movie. 

This is why it premiered on December 10, 2009, in London and was released worldwide between December 16 and 18. 

During its opening day, it earned $26.7 million and $77 million over its opening weekend. This mark is only including the USA and Canada. 

However, Avatar generated over $10 million in the main countries like Spain, Australia, Russia, and more during its opening weekend in the international market. 

Five days after its release, the film had grossed $241.6 million, already breaking records as one of the largest opening weekend grosses of all time. 

On the 19th day of its international release, Avatar hit the $1 billion mark and became the first film to reach this milestone in this short period of time. 

By January 31, 2010, the movie earned $2 billion worldwide. 

The final box office reached by the movie earned $2.8 billion, making it the most grossing film of all time, followed by “Titanic” during that time. 

The movie was surpassed by “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019 but got its crown earlier in 2021.

Avatar has over 80% of good reviews and critics, considering it the best science fiction film of all time. 

As for the cast’s salary, there aren’t many details disclosed or if they made a deal with James Cameron based on how much the film would gross and if they would receive a certain percentage of the earnings. 

However, actress Zoe Saldana (Neytiri) is known for appearing in three of the five highest-grossing movies of all time, including “Avengers: Infinity War” and the sequel “Avengers: Endgame.” This means that it is fair to assume that although she wasn’t worth as much as those last two movies, she should have hit quite the contract by the time of Avatar.

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Avatar

  • The language of the Na’vi was influenced by Persian, Chinese, Amharic, and many other languages for its creation (yes, it was created from zero for the movie). 
  • To help the actors prepare for their roles, director James Cameron took the cast and crew to Hawaii, where they spent their days trekking through the forests and jungles and living like tribes.
  • The actors playing the Na’vi had cameras attached to their heads so that they filmed close-ups of their faces.
  • Avatar was originally meant to be R-Rated
  • Seeing the character of Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002) convinced James Cameron that CGI effects had progressed enough to make this film.

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Written by Dame Cash

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