After years of promises from DC Comics and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, we finally have an official release date for Black Adam. The Rock took to Instagram on Thursday and announced that his entrance into the superhero genre will be December 22, 2021 just five days after James Cameron’s Avatar 2 hits theaters.
The release date is risky for Warner Bros. Avatar – which was included in Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox – was the highest grossing movie ever for almost ten years until Avengers: Endgame captured the throne back in May. It would seem that Warner Bros. is confident in Johnson’s vision for the character to voluntarily take on that battle, especially given their blockbusters’ lackluster performance in 2019. Or, they may be betting on movie-goers current obsession with comic book films – and The Rock – over a sequel to a 10-year old movie.
The box office landscape has changed in the ten years since Avatar was released. As the first fully realized 3D film, Avatar became an event film that audiences absolutely had to see in theaters. Now, in 2019, 3D is all but dead. The gimmick is over and it’s been replaced by Regal RPX, Dolby Cinema, and other premier viewing experiences.
Avatar also won’t have the draw of a legitimate movie star – at the moment, at least. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are set to reprise their roles and the addition of Vin Diesel has been rumored, but none of those three are on The Rock’s level of superstardom. While it’s not necessary to have a super star to draw crowds, it may have helped to restore interest in the franchise after such a long hiatus.
Finally, the Comic Book Film is King in Hollywood right now. Superheroes make up 3 of the top 5 domestic films in 2019 (Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man: Far From Home). All three of those films surpassed $1 billion globally with DC’s Joker prepared to do the same by the end of the week. James Cameron has not had the same success at the box office in 2019. Cameron worked as Executive Producer for both Alita: Battle Angel and Terminator: Dark Fate. The former struggled domestically at the box office, while the latter is currently bombing worldwide and could lose the studio upwards of $100M. Granted, Cameron wasn’t in the director’s chair for either film, but he was said to be heavily involved with both.
Like Alita though, Avatar was a huge hit oversees, in China specifically, where the film was able to earn over $200M back in 2009. Since then, China has increased their screens from just under 5,000 to 66,000. If Cameron is able to win over the Chinese audience, as he has in the past, then we may be looking at another massive box office number for Avatar 2.
Warner Bros. is betting that the pull of the Rock and the current popularity of comic book films will beat out interest in a sequel to a ten-year old box office giant. It’s definitely a risk, but one that has potential to pay off quite the dividend. Regardless of which movie wins, we are in for a great box office battle – and hopefully two amazing movies – in December 2021, which is good for Hollywood, and good for audiences.