Clearly, Avatar is the box office story on everyone’s minds. A lot of “told you so”s are coming from those who normally proclaim not to pay attention to box office, but it became one of the 10 fastest films to reach $1 billion, and in lieu of anything else to discuss, it is certainly going to dominate the headlines. People are showing up, and the money is there, but Avatar’s telethon thermometer is only halfway to reaching its goal. It just had another successful weekend, and it has another full week of schools being off, so enjoy the ride and we’ll see if it maintains its current speed throughout January.
Avatar: The Way Of Water spent its third straight weekend at the top of the box office, but how did it do against the film that is best representative of its current path, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Also opening on Dec. 16 back in 2016, the prequel to A New Hope had beaten The Way of Water on a daily basis for nine of its first 10 days. Things took a shift this week, first after an increase in business on Christmas Day, and then with a marginal victory on Monday ($32.27 million vs. Rogue One’s $32.08 million). The gaps began to get larger from Tuesday (over $1.5 million) to Wednesday (over $2.5 million) to Thursday (over $3.3 million).
That nearly doubled on Friday, as Avatar began to make its first significant steps to get over the estimate applied to Rogue One’s domestic gross of $535 million. Even still, with a $67.4 million third 3-day weekend compared to Rogue’s $49.6 million and a $75 million vs. $65.5 million 4-day, Avatar is still about $4 million ahead where Rogue One was on day 18 of its run. That number is also good enough for fourth place all time for films in their third weekend. All the domestic talk seems moot, though, when Cameron’s film is nearly at $1 billion alone from its international totals. $810 million (as of Monday) and climbing has the film over $1.4 billion, putting it in the top 13 on the all-time list in less than three weeks. If the film continues to trend in this direction, a new estimate north of $600 million domestic could be applied by next weekend.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will soon be eclipsed in the holiday movie season by The Way of Water, but it continues to make a trek towards $450 million with another $5 million over the weekend for third place. Earning a distant but notable third place overall this season (but notching a second-place finish this week) is Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, which had a 31% increase from last weekend to $16.3 million and passed $60 million through Sunday. Where does that put its trajectory? Well, the only December film to cross $60 million in 12 days and not reach $100 million is 2008’s Valkyrie with Tom Cruise. So at least there is another film set to eventually crack $100 million among 2022 releases; Sing 2 had reached $90 million by this point in 2021. At the moment, Puss in Boots is not far behind where Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked was back in 2011 (a fellow Dec. 16th’er) before it eventually reached over $133 million. But that was with its own increase in weekend three, so lets see if PiB will be in the vicinity of $99 million by the end of next Sunday.
The two films that opened against Puss in Boots last week are still in the top five, but neither are doing particularly well. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody fell 10.8% from last week to $4.2 million over the weekend and is expected to cross $15 million on Monday. That puts it on a similar track to last year’s December biopic of quarterback Kurt Warner, American Underdog, which went on to gross just $26 million. Not a great spot for Sony’s $45 million-budgeted film, but better than Paramount’s Babylon. Damien Chazelle’s anti-Hollywood epic added $2.7 million over the weekend to bring its total to just over $10 million. That puts the $80 million-budgeted film on a very similar track to David O. Russell’s Amsterdam from October, another $80 million-budgeted film. That film — like Babylon, a Rotten effort (32%) from a frequent Oscar nominee — grossed $2.7 million in its second weekend, finished with $14.9 million domestic and $31 million globally, and is noted for losing over $100 million. Babylon is currently on the same track.
Fourth place in the holiday movie season goes to a film that is also going to outgross Babylon and Whitney Houston combined. Tommy Wirkola’s Violent Night added another $2.1 million to bring its total to over $47 million through New Years Day. It will be just the fourth film released since November to reach $50 million; last year, there were six. In 2019, the year before the pandemic, when 24 films were launched in over 1,000 theaters in their opening weekend, 12 films reached that goal. In 2022, not counting Fathom Events and Crunchyroll’s One Piece Film: Red, there have only been 10 releases that wide from the major studios. Even if you threw in the expansions of Bones and All and The Fabelmans, that is still only half of what we saw before people learned to wait for the films they felt were not worthy of the theatrical experience. Netflix’s single week release of Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion is still the ninth highest-grossing film among November and December releases with $13.28 million.
Currently occupying the fifth slot of this very lackluster season is another of the biggest bombs of the year. Disney’s Strange World is hanging on for dear life in both the top 10 this week and the top five of the season, adding another half million to get just over $37 million. The $135 million-budgeted film is on the verge of being outgrossed by Searchlight’s $30 million production of The Menu, which made over a million this weekend and is now over $36 million. Rounding out the top 10 is Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, which made $1.14 over the weekend and has passed $12 million. It would likely need to reach $15 million to enter the top 10 of the season. That’s a number A24 is hoping it can hit with Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale; still in under 650 theaters, the Oscar hopeful made another $1.5 million and has driven its total to over $6 million.
Na’vi – meet – M3GAN. Universal is hoping it can pull off a big upset next weekend with the killer robot doll movie that has generated a lot of online buzz from the horror community. The PG-13 rating could certainly help. Last year’s Scream entry opened to $30 million over the MLK weekend, so M3GAN’s shot at the top spot will all depend on how big the Avatar drop is. Rogue One had a $22 million fourth weekend; Avatar is currently trending somewhere between $25-30 million in a weekend that will provide further context towards the film’s ultimate estimate.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures