On the weekend before Christmas, ‘Aquaman’ sequel drifts to first

by Ethan Kim
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Box Office Success

Over the weekend preceding Christmas, the highly anticipated sequel, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” surged to the top of the box office charts. This superhero extravaganza, produced by DC and Warner Bros. and featuring Jason Momoa as the iconic Aquaman, amassed an estimated $28.1 million during its first three days in theaters across North America. It is projected to achieve approximately $40 million in domestic ticket sales by the end of Monday.

However, this weekend’s box office landscape was relatively subdued, with several new releases, including the family-friendly animated film “Migration,” the R-rated romantic comedy “Anyone But You,” the wrestling-themed tragedy “The Iron Claw,” and the haunting tearjerker “All of Us Strangers.” Moviegoers appeared to have other priorities this pre-holiday weekend, which may be attributed to Christmas Eve falling on a prime weekend day.

In a nod to past successes, it’s worth noting that in 2017, when Christmas last landed on a Monday, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” dominated the four-day charts with a formidable $71.5 million during its second weekend.

On Christmas Day, traditional big-screen audiences are expected to return, bolstered by the release of new films such as the high-budget musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” Michael Mann’s adrenaline-pumping racing film “Ferrari,” and George Clooney’s take on the rowing drama “The Boys in the Boat.” These films are poised to benefit from the holiday season, which traditionally proves lucrative for movie theaters.

Nonetheless, it is evident that none of these new releases will rival some of the all-time holiday blockbusters, including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avatar,” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Social media enthusiasts also noted that this was the weekend originally slated for the release of Patty Jenkins’ Star Wars movie, “Rogue Squadron.”

Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst for Comscore, remarked on the uniqueness of having seven film openings in the span of four days, highlighting the industry’s dynamic nature.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” carries an estimated production cost of around $200 million, excluding marketing expenses. Including international earnings of $80 million through Monday, the film is anticipated to achieve a global debut of $120 million. This sequel follows the success of the first “Aquaman” film, which premiered in 2018 with an opening of $67.8 million and eventually generated nearly $1.2 billion worldwide. Notably, the first installment garnered over 70% of its box office earnings from international markets.

For DC superhero films, this year marked a transitional phase with several box office disappointments, including “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “The Flash,” and “Blue Beetle,” as the studio shifts to embrace James Gunn’s vision for the future. “Aquaman 2” represents the final “holdover” from the previous administration.

Warner Bros. is experiencing a strong presence at the box office, with “Wonka” securing the second spot over the weekend and the highly anticipated “The Color Purple” contributing to the studio’s holiday lineup. Warner Bros. is well-positioned to dominate the top five spots by the end of Monday.

“Wonka,” in its second weekend, accrued an estimated $17.7 million over the weekend and $26.1 million, including Monday, bringing its total domestic earnings to $83.6 million.

In third place, Illumination and Universal’s “Migration,” a PG-rated animated adventure revolving around a family of mallards embarking on a journey south, earned an estimated $12.3 million from 3,761 locations in North America through Sunday, with an expected increase to $17.1 million by Monday’s end. Globally, the film’s total earnings reached an estimated $34.3 million by Sunday, with the potential for further growth, given school holidays.

“Migration” received enthusiastic audience reactions, suggesting a promising run during the holiday season and into the coming year, according to Jim Orr, Universal’s Head of Domestic Distribution.

Looking ahead, there will be no direct competition until the release of “Kung Fu Panda 4” on March 8, following Disney’s early-year re-releases of some Pixar titles.

Additionally, the Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney romantic comedy, “Anyone But You,” found favor with female audiences, securing a fourth-place opening with an estimated $6.2 million during its initial three days and nearly $9 million, including Monday. The film, loosely inspired by “Much Ado About Nothing,” divided critics but garnered a B+ CinemaScore from audiences.

“The Iron Claw,” a film centered on the tragedy-stricken Von Erich wrestling family, opened on 2,774 screens and earned an estimated $5.1 million during the first three days, expected to rise to $7.5 million by Monday’s close. It received an A- CinemaScore, marking the highest rating ever for the studio behind “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

“All of Us Strangers,” starring Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, opened in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, achieving a robust per-theater average of $33,034. Yorgos Lanthimos’ gothic black comedy, “Poor Things,” expanded to 800 theaters, earning $2.1 million.

As the box office reaches its conclusion on December 31, regardless of whether it reaches the $9 billion mark or comes close, it is an exciting time for moviegoers. The top 10 films offer a diverse selection, spanning various cinematic genres.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore:

  1. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” $28.1 million.
  2. “Wonka,” $17.7 million.
  3. “Migration,” $12.3 million.
  4. “Anyone But You,” $6.2 million.
  5. “Salaar: Part 1-Ceasefire,” $5.5 million.
  6. “The Iron Claw,” $5.1 million.
  7. “The Hunger Games: The Ballard of Songbirds & Snakes,” $3.2 million.
  8. “The Boy and the Heron,” $3.2 million.
  9. “Godzilla Minus One,” $2.7 million.
  10. “Dunki,” $2.7 million.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Box Office Success

What were the top-performing films at the pre-Christmas box office?

The top-performing films at the pre-Christmas box office included “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” “Wonka,” and “Migration,” each offering a unique cinematic experience.

How did “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” perform at the box office?

The sequel to “Aquaman” led the box office with an estimated $28.1 million in its first three days and was projected to reach around $40 million in domestic ticket sales by Monday.

Were there any notable releases aside from “Aquaman”?

Yes, several other films debuted, including “Wonka,” a musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” and “Ferrari,” each contributing to the diverse holiday film lineup.

How did the holiday weekend affect moviegoer turnout?

The holiday weekend saw a relatively quieter box office, with audiences potentially prioritizing other activities, likely due to Christmas Eve falling on a prime weekend day.

What is the overall outlook for the film industry during this holiday season?

Despite the quieter weekend, the holiday season traditionally proves lucrative for movie theaters. While new releases are expected to perform well, they may not reach the levels of past holiday blockbusters like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Avatar.”

How did “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” compare to its predecessor?

The first “Aquaman” film opened with $67.8 million in 2018 and eventually earned nearly $1.2 billion globally. The sequel, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” is projected to have a global debut of $120 million.

How did the film industry perform in 2023 in terms of DC superhero films?

2023 was a transitional year for DC superhero films, marked by box office disappointments such as “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “The Flash,” and “Blue Beetle,” as the studio shifted its focus to embrace James Gunn’s vision for the future.

What can we expect in terms of upcoming film releases?

The release calendar indicates no direct competition until “Kung Fu Panda 4” arrives on March 8, providing a window for the current holiday releases to thrive.

Were there any standout performances or audience reactions for specific films?

“Migration” received positive audience reactions, hinting at a promising run throughout the holidays and into the next year. “The Iron Claw” earned praise for Zac Efron’s transformative lead performance and received an A- CinemaScore from audiences.

How diverse was the film lineup during this weekend?

The weekend’s top 10 films offered a diverse selection, encompassing various cinematic genres and catering to a wide range of audience preferences.

More about Box Office Success

  • [Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom](insert link)
  • [Wonka](insert link)
  • [Migration](insert link)
  • [The Color Purple musical adaptation](insert link)
  • [Ferrari racing film](insert link)
  • [Star Wars: The Force Awakens](insert link)
  • [Avatar](insert link)
  • [Shazam! Fury of the Gods](insert link)
  • [The Flash](insert link)
  • [Blue Beetle](insert link)
  • [Kung Fu Panda 4](insert link)
  • [Zac Efron’s performance in The Iron Claw](insert link)
  • [A- CinemaScore for The Iron Claw](insert link)
  • [Box office performance in 2023](insert link)

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