‘Avatar’ to debut on TV ahead of the long-anticipated ‘The Way of Water’ release

Blue being has hands outstretched as glowing object floats over them. Blue man behind looks on
The 2009 film “Avatar” will make its television debut throughout December, ahead of the long-anticipated release of its sequel, “The Way of Water.”
(WETA / Twentieth Century Fox)

For the first time since its release 13 years ago, audiences will have a chance to watch “Avatar” without doing more than changing the channel.

ABC announced Thursday that the 2009 sci-fi blockbuster will air on TV for the first time this month. The film’s long-anticipated sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” will be released Dec. 16.

The 2009 film will air Sunday at 7 p.m. on ABC, 8 p.m. Thursday on FX and Dec. 18 on Freeform and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 26 on Freeform. The film has been available to stream on Disney+.

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“The Way of Water” takes place more than a decade after the events of the first film, and follows the Sully family, played by Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña. After they were displaced by resource-hungry colonists from Earth, the Na’vi people fled their land-bound home for a new oceanic home, where their conflict continues.

Earlier this fall, the 4K theatrical re-release of the 2009 film brought in $30 million in global box office sales, adding to its dominance as the highest-grossing film ever.

“The Way of Water” largely owes its loud fanfare to its 13-year wait and massive $350-million budget, a gamble for Disney which is already preparing to fund third, fourth and fifth “Avatar” installments through 2028.

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The franchise’s director James Cameron told GQ earlier this year he expects the film to join “Avatar” and his 1997 “Titanic” as among the top-five highest-grossing films ever.

Critics have already been affirming Cameron’s vision, with Indiewire critic David Ehrlich calling it in a tweet, “light years better than the first & easily one of the best theatrical experiences in ages.” Collider’s Perri Nemiroff called the visuals “mind-blowing,” with its “technical feats” being “in service of character & world-building.” And while Yolanda Machado of Entertainment Weekly heralded the film as “a technological marvel,” she also laughingly referred to the epic as “Dances with Wolves and Free Willy for Gen Z!

And with a three-hour runtime, she warned audiences to “pee beforehand.”