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As we predicted two months ago, Avatar: The Way of Water did it. Hand it to James Cameron again — with an indirect assist from Hollywood, which mostly stayed out of its way — to do what even the biggest of the Marvel Universe could not: stay atop the box office for seven straight weeks. But it may be time to start giving a hand to moviegoers again. They are returning to theaters and helping to put up the kind of numbers on the non-Avatar-Marvels of the world that have always been expected when they have something to return to. Three cheers to the M3GANs and the Ottos and Puss the cat with boots on. We even have to hand it to those who put a little dough on the scoreboard for Neon in a way they have never seen.
Cameron is king for the seventh week in a row. Again. Back in 2009-10, the original Avatar stayed on top and amassed $595.7 million through the end of its seventh weekend with a $31.2 million haul. Avatar: The Way of Water finished its seventh frame with $15.7 million, bringing its total to $620.6 million. That is good enough to enter the top 10 domestic grossers of all-time, knocking Star Wars: The Last Jedi out of the 10th slot. Marvel’s The Avengers will officially fall before next weekend. The Way of Water is less than $4 million off of Jurassic World’s pace (and it more than doubled the latter’s seventh weekend) so that film’s $652 million will also be in the dust soon. It also doubled Avengers: Infinity War’s weekend, but that film had taken it $655 million by this point, so we’ll put a pin in that one for now. In terms of worldwide gross, it did pass Infinity War as well as The Force Awakens’ $2.071 billion, which now gives Cameron three of the top four worldwide grossing films of all time.
Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool may not seem like a bank breaker with $2.7 million this weekend, but there are more positives than one might see on the surface. After its premiere at Sundance last week, one Twitter critic derisively called the film “nonsensical” and claimed it was bound for an F Cinemascore. Well, the joke’s on him, because it got a C-. Even if mainstream audiences won’t be recommending the film anytime soon, that $2.7 million is still a thing. Neon had never opened a film as wide as Infinity Pool (1,835 theaters) in the past. Only Assassination Nation and The Beach Bum had the distinction of opening in 1,000+ theaters in the company’s near six-year history. The latter opened to $1.76 million (a per-theater average of $1,603) and for nearly four years that has been their highest opener. The documentary Apollo 11 opened to $1.6 million in just 120 theaters. Infinity Pool only needs to reach $7.1 million to pass Spencer and become one of Neon’s five highest-grossing films. Their release of Cronenberg’s previous film, Possessor, with now-controversial Academy Award nominee Andrea Riseborough, opened in only 320 theaters and grossed just $752,885. David Cronenberg’s last film, Crimes of the Future, was also released by Neon into 773 theaters last summer and grossed only $2.45 million.
Universal continues to have two success stories in the top five. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish fell only 10% in its sixth week and grossed $10.6 million. That brings its total to over $140 million, which is more than $12 million ahead of Sing 2’s pace, earning $6 million more than that animated film’s $4.6 million sixth weekend. For all the attention given to The Way of Water’s all-timer weekends, it is worth noting that the Puss In Boots sequel just had the seventh-best sixth weekend for a December wide opener and is now headed for a final haul north of $180 million, and it has grossed over $300 million worldwide. Also continuing to do well is M3GAN, which took in another $6 million this weekend and is hovering around $82 million. The $12 million production with a 2025 sequel on the way is still on pace to do around $95 million domestic.
Tom Hanks continues to bring in moviegoers as A Man Called Otto fell only 28% to $6.3 million this weekend. That brings the film to over $45 million, and it should find itself getting over the $60 million threshold in the coming weeks. Last week’s release of Missing dropped 45% to just over $5.6 million, putting its total at $17.5 million. That’s better than the Denzel Washington horror film Fallen, which had $16.9 million after 10 days and a $4.9 million second weekend. It finished with just over $25 million, which would be very close to Missing’s predecessor, Searching, which made $26 million. Not bad at all for a $4 million production, and much better than the $50 million budget of Gerard Butler’s Plane, which is up to just $25 million.
Finally, limited releases made up the rest of the top 10 and just beyond. The Indian spy actioner Pathaan grossed $5.9 million in 695 theaters for an $8,557 per theater average. It has made over $8 million since opening Wednesday. Well Go’s release of the sci-fi sequel The Wandering Earth II got itself in the top 10 despite only playing in 142 theaters; its $1.3 million haul equates to a PTA of $9,542, the second highest of the week after A24’s Best International Feature Film Oscar nominee Close, which grossed $68,143 in four theaters for a PTA of $17,035. The concert film Billie Eilish: Live at the 02 just missed the top 10 with $1.29 million in 600 theaters for a PTA of $2,150. And finally, lest someone make a big deal out of Kevin Sorbo’s faith-based Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist grossing $2.3 million, just tell them it did that in 1,405 theaters for a PTA of $1,681, barely better than the hell portrayed in Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool.
Two wide releases look to unseat Avatar next weekend, and both may succeed to knock it back to third place. M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin, his second R-rated feature, is likely to do well with the horror crowd who haven’t felt completely burned by him by now. It should finish at No. 1 next week, but don’t dismiss the appeal of the four legends (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field and Rita Moreno) in 80 for Brady. The quarterback is out of the playoffs and free to promote the film now; he’s got seven Super Bowl rings, but can he conquer the box office as well?
76% Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
95% Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)
69% A Man Called Otto (2022)
93% M3GAN (2022)
85% Pathaan (2023)
88% Missing (2023)
77% Plane (2023)
87% Infinity Pool (2023)
- - Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist (2023)
79% The Wandering Earth II (2023)
Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures