How Rich Is ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Director James Cameron?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (13652319ks)Director James Cameron poses for photographers upon arrival at the World premiere of the film 'Avatar: The Way of Water' in LondonAvatar The Way of Water World Premiere, London, United Kingdom - 06 Dec 2022.
Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock / Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Chances are, if you’ve watched any movies in the past few decades, you’ve seen a big blockbuster made by James Cameron, whether you know it or not.

The writer/producer/director who is known for “Avatar,” which was released in 2009, is also the creative mind behind such movies as “The Terminator,” “Aliens,” “Rambo II,” “The Abyss,” “Terminator 2,” and of course, “Titanic.” Now, the “Avatar” sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” premieres 13 years after the first film introduced viewers to the magical world of Pandora and its fierce, blue-skinned protagonists.

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Though “Titanic” and “Avatar” are some of his biggest moneymakers, the Canadian-born Cameron had his breakthrough when he wrote and directed 1984’s “The Terminator” starring Arnold Schwarzennegger. Ironically, he was so eager to get the story made, he sold the rights to the concept to a producer for just $1. The inspiration for which, he said, came from a bad dream while he was sick with a fever, according to MovieWeb.

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“It was the image of a chrome skeleton emerging from a fire. When I woke up, I began sketching on the hotel stationery,” Cameron said. The reaction to the movie would end up being a very good dream, however. That first ‘Terminator’ movie, with just a $7 million budget, earned $78 million at the box office — and the financial hits kept coming for the famous movie-maker.

Multiple Income Streams

Cameron has kept busy even when not making blockbusters. He has co-founded three production companies: Lightstorm Entertainment, Digital Domain and Earthship Productions.

His movies have also spawned DVDs, video games, TV shows and merchandise that all produces revenue in royalties revenues for him.

Big Money for Big Movies

Cameron is known for making blockbusters. In fact, he recently told the Associated Press that he only likes to make “big swings” — which tend to come with big payouts.

Over his career, Cameron’s films have earned more than $7 billion, and his current net worth is estimated to be around $700 million, according to CelebrityNetWorth. Significant paydays came from his two biggest blockbusters, which also happen to be among the highest grossing movies of all time: Titanic ($2.19 billion) and Avatar ($2.78 billion).

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When Titanic was running over budget, Cameron gave up his $8 million salary in exchange for what are known as “back end points” — essentially royalties on sales. He reportedly wound up earning $650 million over the years as a result of that deal.

Though “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a very late sequel, and nearly three hours in length, early reviews are indicating that Cameron still knows his way around the movie business — perhaps better than anyone.

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

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