Welcome to the home stretch. The holiday season (November through New Year’s week) had been holding pace as the fourth best ever (behind 2017, 2013 and 2012), though it fell to sixth this weekend. However, this upcoming week’s ticket sales will push the industry into their highest-grossing year ever, besting the 2016 record of $11.37 billion.
Aquaman led the way this weekend, grossing more than the next three films combined. It’s $67.4 million start was the 9th best ever in December (it made another $4.7 million with Amazon previews last weekend) and yet was still the weakest opening in the DC Universe to date by some margin. That should be expected given the rejection of Justice League which introduced Jason Momoa’s superhero. That film opened to $93.4 million and finished with $229 million – itself the weakest gross of the Universe. Aquaman would really have to fail with audiences going forward not to reach that amount. The film’s support with critics dropped as the Tomatometer has fallen to 64% after some initial robust reviews from the junket crowd. Aquaman’s worldwide total has risen to over $482 million.
There is only one number that earns Bumblebee its slot here and it’s certainly not its opening weekend. Bumblebee’s $21 million start is less than half of what Transformers: The Last Knight opened to. No, the real impressive number is the Tomatometer score: 94%. The total score of the four Michael Bay Transformers sequels combined is just 88%. That’s four films. (The original received a 57%.) Whether or not Bumblebee can continue to draw family audiences in such a crowded season remains to be seen, but even catching The Last Knight’s $130 million means the $135 million production will be relying on its international draw to turn a profit. None of the live-action Transformers films have grossed less than $600 million worldwide.
In a sad turn of events Robert Zemeckis’ current box office status is looking a lot like the beginning of his career, marked by I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars, before Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future saved him. Countless masterpieces later, the director has fallen on hard times again in ticket sales. Sony opened The Walk wide a week after The Martian. It grossed $3.7 million and finished with just $10.1m. Allied was an $85 million production that Brad Pitt did no press for as he was in the middle of his domestic issues with Angelina Jolie. It ended up making just $40 million domestic.
This weekend, Universal opened Welcome to Marwen and it, unfortunately, reached new lows for Zemeckis. The film opened in just 1,911 theaters but a $1,234 per-theater-average is weak for any release. Critically it is the worst-reviewed film of his career by a margin; What Lies Beneath received a 46%. That is just the fifth rotten score ever for Zemeckis, but the opening was even worse than The Walk with just a $2.3 million tally.
Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns opened with a $22.2 million haul this weekend, it’s total now up to $31 million. These may seem like low numbers but do we need to remind you of La La Land, Chicago and just how well The Greatest Showman did last year? Even Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera started with just $4 million and stretched to $51 million. Watch for those Poppins numbers to grow steadily for several weeks.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse rose to almost $65 million this weekend and is currently on a path to between $125-$135 million. Clint Eastwood’s The Mule‘s made nearly $10 million in its second frame; final estimate is still a bit erratic but expect a tally between $65-$75 million.
The $6.5 million opening of Second Act (42%) ranks between Angel Eyes ($9.2 million) and Gigli ($3.7 million) for Jennifer Lopez films. Ralph Breaks the Internet ($5 million this weekend) remains slightly ahead of the pace of Coco so $200 million is still very much in play for it, though the $175 million production is still looking for some international help to get into the profit margin. Focus expanded Mary Queen of Scots into 795 theaters and it grossed $2.2 million to breach the top 10. In five theaters fewer, The Favourite made $2 million and has grossed a total of $10 million to date. Finally, Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born crossed the $200 million mark this weekend, becoming the 11th film of 2018 to reach that milestone. All eyes will now be on Aquaman, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Mary Poppins Returns to make this year the first to have 14 films to do it.
The Last Jedi took the top spot for a second straight week, but its holiday archenemy, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle made its debut at number 2 with $36.1 million. Christmas Eve fell on Sunday last year and a number of slow starters would go to become huge earners. Pitch Perfect 3 started with just under $20 million and ended up making $104 million. Then there was The Greatest Showman which opened on Wednesday, made less than $5 million in its first two days and $8.8 million over the weekend. It’s final tally was $174 million. The musical’s 19.79 multiple over its opening weekend was second only to Titanic (20.97) for December films opening on more than 2,500 screens. Also opening were Alexander Payne’s Downsizing to $4.9 million and Father Figures with $3.2 million. Last year’s top 10 grossed $164.3 million and averaged 66.6% on the Tomatometer. This year’s top 10 grossed $161.3 Million and averaged 66.8%
In just a few days Christmas brings us heroes and villains, though each with a comic slant. There’s Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Holmes & Watson, which Sony is hiding from critics so beware its eventual score on the Tomatometer. Adam McKay’s Vice has been dividing critics since it started screening: it’s barely holding on to a Fresh rating at 68% despite positioning as a significant awards player this season. Doing much better with critics are the upcoming limited releases are Nicole Kidman in Destroyer (78%), Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex (73%), and John C. Reilly in the second of famous pairings for the week with Stan & Ollie (90%).
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]