How did Avatar make so much money?

This thread isn't here to intentionally bait CF ;)

The question I'm asking is not 'how did Avatar do so well given that it's not that good?' but 'How did Avatar do so well compared with every other film ever?'

The Avengers has been massive. Everyone has been to see it, most of them in 3D. It's also been backed by a stronger critical reception than Avatar, had almost no box office opposition, played brilliantly overseas and combined a number of hugely successful franchises. It's currently the 3rd highest crossing film of all-time, and yet, Avatar still grossed almost twice as much.

Yes, I remember the hype and I remember that everyone was going to see it but the fact that it took as much as The Avengers and Harry Potter 7b combined still astonishes me, especially given the popularity of both those pre-existing franchises in Asia.

I was wondering whether anyone had a logical answer as to how a movie, which wasn't a sequel, managed to take almost $3 billion, a feat that looks incredibly hard to surpass.
 
The same way Titanic made so much money I guess. It was an all-round movie, with much hype from a director who hasn't made a film since the highest-grossing film of all time.

Factor in 3D tickets and rising ticket prices and a good marketing strategy.

(F.Y.I. I didn't like Avatar at all. And I watched it in 2D and 3D and didn't think it was that amazing.)
 
i'd say that when it reached a certain gross, it was honestly just people ASSUMING it was good... I was kind of like that, me and my wife went to see it because nothing else was playing at our theater...


heck, i'm sure that's another good reason... it probably didn't have any real competition
 
The same way Titanic made so much money I guess. It was an all-round movie, with much hype from a director who hasn't made a film since the highest-grossing film of all time.

Factor in 3D tickets and rising ticket prices and a good marketing strategy.
Right, that's all well and good but I still don't think it explains how it's made twice as much as a movie like The Avengers, which pretty much fills all those requirements as well.

I really don't rate the 'James Cameron effect' as a reason. I doubt whether the average punter really cares about who the director is and Avatar is a film that is much more likely to appeal to Cameron's Aliens and Terminator ($131 and $78 million respectively) than his Titanic fans.
 
Right, that's all well and good but I still don't think it explains how it's made twice as much as a movie like The Avengers, which pretty much fills all those requirements as well.

I really don't rate the 'James Cameron effect' as a reason. I doubt whether the average punter really cares about who the director is and Avatar is a film that is much more likely to appeal to Cameron's Aliens and Terminator ($131 and $78 million respectively) than his Titanic fans.
I don't think Avengers is in the same category as Avatar. For instance, my dad would go see Avatar. He would not go see Avengers.

You would be surprised about the 'James Cameron effect'. I worked in a cinema for 4 years and was actually working when Avatar came out. All walks of people came to the cinema, from kids to old people. James Cameron is, to the average movie-goer, a director with much appeal, considering that he was promising (or, rather the marketing strategy) a 3D bonanza, as it were.

It's all hype.
 
One factor might be the amount of people that went multiple times. It really blew a lot of people away. Plus the word of mouth on it was pretty amazing. Much more than The Avengers.
 
I don't think Avengers is in the same category as Avatar. For instance, my dad would go see Avatar. He would not go see Avengers.

You would be surprised about the 'James Cameron effect'. I worked in a cinema for 4 years and was actually working when Avatar came out. All walks of people came to the cinema, from kids to old people. James Cameron is, to the average movie-goer, a director with much appeal, considering that he was promising (or, rather the marketing strategy) a 3D bonanza, as it were.

It's all hype.
In terms of breadth of audience, I think comic book movies and sci-fi are probably relatively comparable. I'm not sure that my parents would go see either, to be honest.

As for the 'Jim Cameron effect' I think that we need to divorce ourselves from our own perceptions of the film industry. We are obviously all extremely cineliterate but the average punter, who goes to see a movie every month or two, doesn't care who the director is. Of my 15 closest friends, I reckon only two or three of them would be able to tell me who directed Avatar. They just don't care.

And yet they all must've gone to see the film. Hype is definitely the reason, I don't dispute that, the question I'm asking is how that hype (which doesn't really feel much more than Avengers or HP7b) translated into such a colossal box office haul.

I hated Titanic and still went to see this... and at the time I was unaware that Cameron made Terminator, one of my favorite movies, particularly in my childhood...
This probably supports the idea that that 'James Cameron effect' is not hugely important to Avatar's success.

There is undoubtedly a similarity between Titanic and Avatar (although I'd probably expect Titanic to have broader appeal) but I'm slightly lost as to what the intangible reason for these non-sequel's success is.

Michael Allen said:
One factor might be the amount of people that went multiple times. It really blew a lot of people away. Plus the word of mouth on it was pretty amazing. Much more than The Avengers.
Meh, not sure I agree.

Avatar holds an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes compared to The Avengers' 93%, Harry Potter 7b's 96% or The Dark Knight's 94%.

I realise that critical support isn't everything but I don't recall everyone I know being blown away by Avatar. Yes, a lot of people loved it but I would say it had as many detractors as those other films. Speaking as someone who saw Harry Potter 7b four times in the cinema, I think the amount of people returning to see Avatar again is unlikely to make a significant impact on their BO gross.
 
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the word of mouth that I remember (at least in my neck of the woods...) was mostly that it was an obscure film... nobody expected it to be amazing, or even that good... the trailer showed the entire plot, so nobody thought it would surprise them... nobody talked about until afterwards and all we did was make fun of it.... and then in the theater I would say the cliched lines I thought they would say as they said them (and sure enough, I was right every single time.)

I'm a big sci-fi nerd and so are most of my friends and I only know a handful of them that saw this... to everyone around here, talking about Avatar is like discussing an obscure indie film that most people haven't seen, so I share your level of astonishment at its success.
 
...I share your level of astonishment at its success.
I'm actually not at all surprised it was successful. It has everything that's required to make a hit.

The thing that surprises me is, simply, how much more money it managed to take than any other film before or since- especially given the proliferation of 3D and the massive global revenues for franchise movies.
 
In terms of breadth of audience, I think comic book movies and sci-fi are probably relatively comparable. I'm not sure that my parents would go see either, to be honest.

As for the 'Jim Cameron effect' I think that we need to divorce ourselves from our own perceptions of the film industry. We are obviously all extremely cineliterate but the average punter, who goes to see a movie every month or two, doesn't care who the director is. Of my 15 closest friends, I reckon only two or three of them would be able to tell me who directed Avatar. They just don't care.

And yet they all must've gone to see the film. Hype is definitely the reason, I don't dispute that, the question I'm asking is how that hype (which doesn't really feel much more than Avengers or HP7b) translated into such a colossal box office haul.
Well here is where me and you differ in terms of perspective. I know people who are not really versed in cinema, but they know who James Cameron is.

I can only go off from my own views, and as I have worked in the cinema I've seen what makes people go see a film. It comes down to marketing and hype. Not forgetting that Avatar was predominately sold as a 3D movie with technology "out of this world".

Avatar had a better strategy wherein it was like the first iPod or iPad. Avengers was marketed as a comic book movie, something not everyone is attracted to considering that they are all over the place nowadays, and Avatar was heralded as a technological masterpiece by the same guy who brought you the "groundbreaking" Titanic. It all depends on how you attract the audience. What Avengers had going for it was the cast & the 3D, and general word-of-mouth.


I realise that critical support isn't everything but I don't recall everyone I know being blown away by Avatar. Yes, a lot of people loved it but I would say it had as many detractors as those other films. Speaking as someone who saw Harry Potter 7b four times in the cinema, I think the amount of people returning to see Avatar again is unlikely to make a significant impact on their BO gross.
Again, you would be surprised. Avatar, as I said above, was marketed in such a way it was something "seen to be believed". It had that general appeal to it. I do know lots of people saying they loved Avatar, but I think this was down to the 3D and CGI personally.

Oh, and I think when people compared it to Dances with Wolves in Space, that only boosted it's popularity. So the negative publicity probably helped the box-office.
 
This thread isn't here to intentionally bait CF ;)
Oh, but you knew you would. :D

I appreciate the sentiment of keeping this conversation away from whether or not it's a "good" movie. And I think that's actually important to people in this thread understanding how it made so much money.

I think we roll in different circles. On Indietalk, and in many other online forums, "Avatar" is not held with much regard. But in the real world, uhhhhh.... people like it. It got an average score of "A", from cinemascore. That's really good.

Take a look at it's ridiculously-low week-to-week drop-off in box office: http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=avatar.htm

That's word-of-mouth. Some arm-chair analysts like to say that it wasn't competing with any other real box-office draws. That's true. But that's true EVERY YEAR. January and February are months in which people don't really go to movies. That's why we get all the shittiest movies in those months.

The fact that "Avatar" was able to make a shit-ton of money during the months that are the slowest of the year is actually a testament to how much it appealed to the masses.

And appeal to the masses it did. If you don't recognize this as fact, you were living under a rock. The added appeal of the perfect 3D certainly helped a lot.

How did "Avatar" make so much money? People liked it.
 
Everything Sucramdoow said, plus it made most of it's money outside the US and outside other English-speaking countries. He designed his movie almost like a sient film so that you could understand what was happening, especially with the Navi, without understanding the language and without heavy tracking of subtitles so, it 'translated' well abroad. Plus it had a message which was positively construed by foreign cultures, particularly Russia, China and India who identified with the story if the Navi, historically. This last bit might sond like stretch but there has been a lot if cultural writing about this from those nations.
Of course, having a massive advertising budget spanning over 3 years is what drove it.
 
Of course, having a massive advertising budget spanning over 3 years is what drove it.
Which planet were you living on? For three years, I was actively seeking out any and all information I could find about "Avatar". They kept everything under lock and key. There was no info. There was no press release. There was nothing even remotely resembling advertising.

Not until a few months before the movie, then the onslaught began. Which is normal. But three years of advertising? Uhh...no.
 
CF: I do appreciate that people liked it in general and that it got high audience reaction responses but, for example, my sister and my parents heard that it was about blue aliens and were immediately not interested and have never seen it. They can't be that atypical.

The thing that you touch upon which I think it's actually the important reason, is the iPod analogy. There was something about the way that it was billed that suggested it was a real game-changer (something it hasn't really proved to be). I think people went into the cinemas with the expectation that the 3D would be something incredible and that probably explains a lot of the ticket sales. What might be interesting is how the filmmakers and marketing department managed to convince the general public that the film was going to be that sort of decisive cinematic landmark.

I also think that the fallout from that film has probably affected other films grosses. The 3D in Avatar is very good, hasn't been bettered, but it confirmed a lot of people's misapprehensions about 3D and the other 3D releases shortly after it (like Clash of the Titans) were just dismal. Thus the ratio of 3D to 2D has on major releases (like Harry Potter 7b) tipped back in favour of 2D. With Avatar there was little doubt that, if you were going to see it, you were going to see it in proper 3D.
 
Combined with the James Cameron thing, I think the fact that Avatar had no pre-existing fan base may have helped it in this specific case. It doesn't exclude any type of audience.

The Avengers is a comic book movie and HP7 is based on a fantasy book. Many people will dismiss them because they aren't interested in super heroes or fantasy. On the other hand, science fiction has proven year after year to be one of the top grossing genres, definitely over fantasy.

Throw in the fact that 3D was still a new idea at the time, the trailers looked amazing, and the CGI was groundbreaking.

Would The Beatles have been as successful if they were just starting out now? Most likely not. Timing is everything.
 
One factor might be the amount of people that went multiple times. It really blew a lot of people away. Plus the word of mouth on it was pretty amazing. Much more than The Avengers.
I think this is a huge factor.
He offered an utopian world that was so rich of details and colors, that you can watch it multiple times just to immerge yourself in it again to discover more details.
Add this to a 'Dances with wolves'-like story that stills appeals to a lot of people: the romantism of simpler times and harmony with nature.
And don't forget the time-frame: the crisis had just started. Caused by greedy banks and people who are willing to distroy anything just to get what they want. On a subconsious level this could have contributed to the appeal as well.

Last but not least: although it maybe cliches: it's full of emotions. That still counts in a story.
 
I HATE 3D......

but yeah, i think nick is right... the audience was simply fooled that it would be like the first time they saw color in the theater... or heard sound.... they expected something wonderful and most were disappointed...


On to current events, does anybody disapprove of Peter Jackson's decision to shoot the Hobbit at 48 frames per second?
 
Keys to massive international success:

Write a story on 2nd grade level so that it transcends culture. The bad guys are one dimensionally bad. The good guys are one dimensionally good. The plot is so simple you could basically tell the entire story in a four sentence synopsis.

Cast some internationally recognizable actors.

Fill it with Gee Whiz Special Effects.

Spend a crap ton of money promoting it.
 
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