“Avatar: The Way of Water” couldn’t reverse Walt Disney Co.’s recent funk, which has the stock on a path for its worst year since 1974. Disney shares
sank nearly 5% to their lowest level since March 2020 on Monday, after the blockbuster sequel and one of the priciest movies in Hollywood history fell short of the hype in its opening weekend. “Avatar: The Way of Water” hauled in $134 million domestically and had the second-largest global opening of 2022, but fell short of tracking estimates based on advance U.S. ticket sales and disappointed in one of the biggest markets for the franchise, China.
Disney had hoped to clean up in China, where the first movie in 2009 did blockbuster business. “The Way of Water” earned $57.1 million there, which Disney described in a Wall Street Journal report as disappointing but understandable. “The problem is nobody wants to go to the cinema, because they’ve been told that COVID is extremely dangerous,” Tony Chambers, Disney’s global head of theatrical distribution, said in the article. “Although cinemas are open, the appetite for going to them isn’t really there.” The news helped send Disney’s stock down 4.8% Monday, the biggest decline of the day for a Dow Jones Industrial Average
component, to $85.78 — two cents shy of Disney’s lowest closing price since 2014. “Avatar’s” less-than-stella …