‘Avatar’ mania has streaming pirates a little too excited as ‘Way of Water’ release date nears


By Christopher Zara

December 14, 2022

We feel obligated to say right up front that there are multiple legal ways to watch or stream James Cameron’s original Avatar. The 2009 sci-fi epic is available on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Disney+, to name a few.

Nevertheless, demand for unauthorized viewing options has skyrocketed over the past few months in anticipation of its much-hyped, much-praised, and much-delayed sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, which is finally due to hit theaters on Friday. According to a recent report from the anti-piracy firm Muso—which tracks audience interest in unlicensed content around the world—demand for the original Avatar has increased 406.5% since January; the sequel’s release date was announced in April.

Such spikes are not unusual, Muso’s report says, as the release of sequels, reboots, and other content based on popular works will typically inspire viewers of all types to seek out the source material. In the case of Avatar, you can add 13 years of pent-up demand to the mix, which means almost an entire generation of (presumably pirate-savvy) moviegoers are too young to have seen the first movie during its original theatrical run.

Although there has been some debate over the extent to which audiences were, in fact, clamoring to revisit Pandora and its lavish, alien landscapes, early buzz for the sequel—including raves from critics over its 3D special effects—suggests that the Cameron naysayers could be proven wrong (again). Although Muso doesn’t release exact figures, it says that piracy demand for Avatar has been more than double that of the original Top Gun, another Hollywood hit that had a big sequel this year.

Fortunately for Cameron’s bank account, pirates aren’t the only movie fans who are excited to dive into The Way of Water. Diesel Labs, which tracks online conversations, said in a new report this week that the Avatar sequel was already the eighth most-discussed movie of the year as of December 6, and it hasn’t even come out yet.

When compared to other movies at the same point before their release dates, Avatar is ahead of a number of notable 2022 franchise flicks, including Top Gun: Maverick, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Jurassic World: Dominion, and The Batman.