$7,223,951,418: James Cameron now owns three of the four biggest films in box office history

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ crosses the $2B mark. PLUS: ‘Poker Face’ is another win for Rian Johnson, new trailers for ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ and ‘Succession,’ and my new candy search pays off.

$7,223,951,418: James Cameron now owns three of the four biggest films in box office history
Sam Worthington in Avatar: The Way of Water. / 20th Century Studios

Have you folks heard of this little movie called Avatar: The Way of Water? It appears that quite a few people have paid to see it. How many tickets do you have to sell to gross $2.1 billion? Maybe just one really big ticket?

The Avatar sequel passed the $2 billion mark this past week, becoming the 11th biggest hit in domestic box office history and the fourth biggest hit in worldwide history.

Not bad for a sequel to a film that pop culture had allegedly forgotten.

I still haven’t made it to the theaters to see The Way of Water. It’s not a matter of principle or anything. It’s just been hard to find four hours to go see a movie between the holidays, our daughter’s birthday party and the million other random things that can quickly consume a weekend. I saw the original Avatar in theaters, and I fully get that this is the kind of movie You Must See in a Theater™️.

But anyways, The Way of Water’s box office haul. Through seven weekends in release, the film has grossed a domestic total of $620,580,771 and a worldwide total of $2,116,580,771.

Those are very big numbers even if you take things like inflation or ticket price increases into account.

The Way of Water trails ten films on the domestic box office chart:

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($936,662,225)
  2. Avengers: Endgame ($858,373,000)
  3. Spider-Man: No Way Home ($814,115,070)
  4. Avatar ($785,221,649)
  5. Top Gun: Maverick ($718,732,821)
  6. Black Panther ($700,059,566)
  7. Avengers: Infinity War ($678,815,482)
  8. Titanic ($659,363,944)
  9. Jurassic World ($652,306,625)
  10. The Avengers ($623,357,910)

The Way of Water has a ton of ground left to make up on this chart. The domestic box office that The Force Awakens put up in 2015 is still absolutely unreal, and I really don’t think we’ll see another film come anywhere near that number. Endgame couldn’t, so why should we expect Avengers: Secret Wars or some future/hypothetical Avengers vs. X-Men film to do so?

Worldwide, though, The Way of Water has just three films left to beat:

  1. Avatar ($2,899,384,102)
  2. Avengers: Endgame ($2,794,731,755)
  3. Titanic ($2,207,986,545)

The Way of Water is less than $100 million away from passing Titanic, making the film a lock for at worst No. 3 on the all-time worldwide chart.

You’ll also notice that James Cameron now holds three of the top four spots on this chart, making him currently responsible for $7,223,951,418 worth of worldwide box office receipts. OVER $7 BILLION.

I guess they should keep letting that guy make whatever movies he wants.

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The News
Pedro Pascal in a promo for The Last of Us. / HBO

Live from New York, this is the way

Saturday Night Live revealed that The Last of Us and The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal will host the show’s first episode in February. This will be Pascal’s first time hosting SNL, which will make it four episodes in a row where the show had a rookie host. (Austin Butler, Aubrey Plaza, Michael B. Jordan and now Pascal will have followed the very not-rookie Steve Martin and Martin Short.)

Where does Pascal find the time to do SNL? He’s gotta be one of the busiest actors out there right now.

The Last of Us renewed for a second season

Speaking of how busy Pascal is, HBO announced on Friday that The Last of Us has been renewed for a second season.

Don’t expect The Last of Us to go on forever like The Walking Dead, though. Series co-creator Craig Mazin has previously stated that a second season (along with a potential third season) would cover the story from The Last of Us Part II, with the show going no farther than the video games themselves."

“I am not interested in going beyond the existing source material,” Mazin told Gizmodo. “As a viewer, I have no problem watching shows that just keep going and going and going. No problem. But as a writer, I don’t want to be in the position of spinning plates to just spool out season after season of stuff. To me, it’s important that things are purposeful, and if they’re purposeful, that means they have endings. That means everything you do is carefully selected and chosen, not just there to keep going.”

Good thing HBO doesn’t have any previous history with taking a show beyond the existing source material

Phoebe Waller-Bridge to write a Tomb Raider series for Amazon

If you’re a franchise focused on an archeologist who travels the world having adventures and fighting bad guys, odds are Phoebe Waller-Bridge now has a hand in it. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Friday that the Fleabag star and creator has been tasked by Amazon Studios to write a Tomb Raider series.

Waller-Bridge, who will be seen alongside Harrison Ford in the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, will reportedly not star in the series.

But what about the Tomb Raider film starring Alicia Vikander, you ask? Wasn’t there a sequel in the works for that?

Well, yes. And it seems like that status of that project is now murky. While THR doesn’t mention the movie, Deadline subsequently reported that the Tomb Raider series is “part of a Tomb Raider multi-platform universe Amazon has been putting together, which also includes games” and that Waller-Bridge could potentially have a hand in a movie.

MGM was one of the production companies on the 2018 film, and Amazon now owns MGM.

Ayo Edebiri in The Bear. / Hulu

The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri joins Thunderbolts

Thunderbolts continues to add to its expansive cast, with Deadline reporting on Thursday that The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri had joined the cast in a “new secret role.”

Edebiri, whose voice work can also be heard in Big Mouth, joins the already announced Florence Pugh, Sebastian Stan, David Harbour, Harrison Ford, Hannah John-Kamen, Wyatt Russell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Olga Kurylenko.

While Marvel Studios hasn’t officially called Thunderbolts the sequel to Black Widow, Marvel Studios director of visual development Andy Park recently posted art from Black Widow on his Instagram with the comment that “it’s like it’s a Black Widow sequel & these these movies are connected or something!” before later editing his post to read that “it’s like these movies are connected or something!”

Interesting change. Would Marvel Studios owe Scarlett Johansson money if they admitted Thunderbolts is a Black Widow sequel?

A scene from Bob’s Burgers. / 20th Television

Fox renews Bob’s Burgers, The Simpsons and Family Guy

While shows that don’t have “Chicago” in their titles or air on CBS these days struggle to make it past a few seasons, Fox’s trio of animated shows continues to thrive. The network gave two-season renewals to Bob’s Burgers, The Simpsons and Family Guy this past week.

“With this trio of renewals, we celebrate excellence in animation on Fox, our wonderful, long-time partnership with 20th Television and the brilliant creators and incredible voices behind these forever favorites,” President of Entertainment for Fox Entertainment Michael Thorn said in a statement. “Three-plus decades of The Simpsons, more than two decades of Family Guy and over a decade of Bob’s Burgers proves the enduring power of the animation genre on our network and the infinite fan affinity for these outrageously funny comedy classics.”

Yes, more than three decades of The Simpsons. These renewals will take the show to its 35th and 36th seasons, Bob’s Burgers to its 14th and 15th seasons and Family Guy to its 22nd and 23rd seasons. I’m not sure if it’s more impressive that Family Guy has lived so long after it was once dead or that the beloved Bob’s Burgers is still going in this era of lower ratings.

Wanna send me your comments, questions or recommendations? Write to Popculturology at popculturology@gmail.com, and I might run your mail in a future edition of the newsletter.

Deep SNL Thoughts
Deep SNL Thoughts: Michael B. Jordan strips, trips and eats spaghetti
I really enjoyed this week’s episode of Saturday Night Live. Michael B. Jordan, hosting for his first time, was up for whatever the show threw at him, whether it was making animal sounds, capitalizing on how in shape he is or soup and spaghetti. (Yes, this episode involved both soup an…

Trailer Watch
Zachary Levi in Shazam! Fury of the Gods. / Warner Bros.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

The new trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods is great. The first Shazam! is a bright spot in the DCEU. But is it a trailer for a doomed franchise?

Despite Zachary Levi’s claim that he’s “Gucci” when it comes to his place in DC Studios, there’s the creeping suspicion that, like most parts of the old DCEU, Shazam! and Levi aren’t going to be part of James Gunn and Peter Safran’s master plan.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods opens on March 17.


Crank up the Succession theme song. It’s a trailer for the show’s upcoming season.

HBO is giving us a one-Sunday break between the end of The Last of Us and the return of Succession. You can always fill that time by watching this trailer on repeat, if you really need something to do on a Sunday night.

Succession premires on March 26.

Party Down

I caught up on Party Down a few years ago and really enjoyed the show. It had a great cast, so it’s fun to see them reunited in the new trailer for Party Down’s revival. It appears that we’ve swapped in Jennifer Garner for Lizzy Caplan, though? Starz is one of the few streaming services we don’t subscribe too — maybe I can find a free trial to watch this one.

Party Down premieres on Feb. 24.

A scene from Avatar: The Way of Water. / 20th Century Studios

Weekend of Jan. 27-29, 2023

Avatar: The Way of Water (1)
Weekend gross: $15.7M / Total domestic gross: $620.6M / Percent drop: -22

What’s left to say about The Way of Water? The film has two more weekends before Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania hits theaters, giving it plenty of time to add to its total.

  1. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2)
    Weekend gross: $10.6M / Total domestic gross: $140.8M / Percent drop: -10
  2. A Man Called Otto (5)
    Weekend gross: $6.8M / Total domestic gross: $46M / Percent drop: -23
  3. M3GAN (3)
    Weekend gross: $6.4M / Total domestic gross: $82.3M / Percent drop: -35
  4. Pathaan (N)
    Weekend gross: $5.9M / Total domestic gross: $8.5M / Percent drop: -NA

Box office numbers via The Numbers

Natasha Lyonne and Megan Suri in Poker Face. / Peacock

Poker Face

“Dead Man’s Hand,” “The Night Shift,” “The Stall” and “Rest in Metal”

Rian Johnson is a genius. From Breaking Bad to Star Wars: The Last Jedi to his Benoit Blanc mystery saga, the writer/director has repeatedly elevated franchises and genres.

Poker Face, his new show starring Natasha Lyonne, is no different. As usual, Johnson has the benefit of working with a vast cast of talented actors. We’ve watched the first four episodes of the show (four episodes are currently available) and have already seen Adrian Brody, Benjamin Bratt, Chloë Sevigny, Lil Rey Howery and even John Ratzenberger pop up. (And, yes, Johnson’s buddy Noah Segan has a role.)

While there is an overarching story to Poker Face, the show can be viewed as standalone mysteries of the week. Lyonne’s “human lie detector” character can’t help but solve the cases she finds herself in the middle of, which is one of the great parts about the show. There’s no solving a murder — the puzzle of each episode is how Lyonne’s Charlie figures out a case.

Looking ahead, it appears that Johnson doesn’t write and/or direct every episode of Poker Face. Lyonne herself directs and episode that she co-wrote in the coming weeks.

The Links

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Reese’s Big Cup with Reese’s Puffs

I’ve been hoping to find these since news broke a few months ago that they were a thing. (Yes, there are sites that cover new candy and soda news.) Reese’s Puffs INSIDE a Reese’s Cup? Absolutely. I found them at a gas station while waiting to get my car inspected over the weekend, so thanks, Virginia, for making me do that every year.

They’re basically a Reese’s Cup with the added crunch of Reese’s Puffs, but the cross section after a bite looks nothing like the photo on the package. It’s all just peanut butter brown. I’m going to go eat the second one now.

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