James Cameron’s Avatar movies have a reputation for being really long. The director believes in delivering a massive spectacle with his theatrical event films and that’s what 2009’s Avatar proved to be. The theatrical cut was 2 hours and 42 minutes long and it played in the theatres for months. The result – Avatar became the highest-grossing movie of all time. Even its recent rerelease brought in $75 million worldwide. So, those questioning Avatar 2’s long run time shouldn’t worry. James Cameron has been pretty vocal in supporting the long run time, and he also revealed an incident of the past when he lashed out at a Fox exec for begging to make Avatar shorter.
The Heated Argument with a Fox Exec
James Cameron is known to be pretty hot-tempered when he doesn’t get what he wants out of his films. But usually, his judgment turns out to be right, and choosing to keep Avatar’s run time long was proof of it. But, he did reveal that after a pre-release screening of Avatar, a Fox exec reached out to him with a “stricken cancer-diagnosis expression.” He begged him to cut down on Avatar’s runtime.
And according to Cameron, here’s what he told that Exec:
“I said something I’ve never said to anybody else in the businessI think this movie is going to make all the f**king money. And when it does, it’s going to be too late for you to love the film. The time for you to love the movie is today. So, I’m not asking you to say something that you don’t feel, but just know that I will always know that no matter how complimentary you are about the movie in the future when it makes all the money.”
The director continued:
“And that’s exactly what I said, in caps, ALL THE MONEY, not some of the money, all the f**king money. I said, ‘You can’t come back to me and compliment the film or chum along and say, ‘Look what we did together.’ You won’t be able to do that.’ At that point, that particular studio executive flipped out and went bug shit on me. And I told him to get the f**k out of my office. And that’s where it was left.”
With a worldwide box office total of $2.922 billion, the world knows that Cameron was right. And he is also right about Avatar: The Way of Water’s runtime.
Longer Movies Usually Work
We’ve seen several instances where studios pushed for their films to be shorter so they could have an extra screening of a particular movie in a day. The idea is that an extra screening will obviously put more butts on the chairs, and thus, would lead to extra money. But this idea has been proven wrong time and time again. The top 3 highest-grossing movies are all close to 3 hours long. In fact, 4 out of the top 5 are close to the 150-minute mark. So, no matter the runtime, a movie sells if it’s good. And with all the big-budget blockbuster events, people usually prefer to have longer spectacles than 90–120-minute popcorn entertainers.
It isn’t necessary that a longer run time will always deliver a successful outing and Eternals is proof of that. But the problem arises when Studios place a mandate on films that need longer runtimes but are cramped for room. WB kept a 2-hour mandate on Justice League and the product was a steaming hot pile of crap! Thor: Love and Thunder was rumored to have a 2-hour mandate and it underperformed big time. So, it’s good that Disney didn’t make the same mistake with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and they aren’t doing that with Avatar: The Way of Water either.
As per Cameron, The Way of Water needed its 192-minute runtime to flesh out all new characters and we support that! But, it’ll be interesting to see if the movie comes even halfway close to the commercial success of its predecessor.
Avatar: The Way of Water releases on December 16, 2022.