Weekend Box Office

Weekend Box Office Results: Victory is Sweet for Wonka

Paul King's family-friendly prequel dominated the weekend but faces holiday competition in the near future from its own studio.

by | December 18, 2023 | Comments


Warner Bros. got the numbers they were expecting this weekend, though maybe still not the ones that they wanted. At the box office, that is. Even many critics quick to lament the thought of another origin story upon its inception have admitted that Wonka is worth the price of a ticket. December numbers can be deceptive from the usual crop of figures that usually quickly identify a film as a hit or a miss with marketing to its audience. Can this be the standout hit of a rather dreary holiday season, or has another film already laid claim to that title?

King of the Crop: Wonka Wins the Weekend

Wonka from Paddington and Paddington 2 director Paul King did lead the way this weekend with $39 million. Some may look at that number and see how it just barely made the top 20 openings of 2023 or just missed the top 25 all time for the month of December. But this month is a different beast, especially during the all-important Christmas vacation weeks, when even disappointments make up a little bank. Let’s not forget how Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle opened with a similar $36.1 million and went on to gross over $400 million, or how The Greatest Showman stretched an $8.8 million opening to over $174 million. Call them miracles or just the beneficiaries of great word-of-mouth, but they both involve a little faith, and what better season is there for that to go around?

Apart from the all-timer openings of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, which make it harder to pull off a final gross three times their start, there have only been two films released in December to open with over $25 million and not generate a 3x multiple. They were 2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still remake and The Golden Compass. So it is safe to assume that Wonka will at least get over $100 million with no problem. Look at PG-rated films through the same lens, and the lowest multiple was Tron: Legacy’s 3.90, so let’s bulk that floor up to $152 million. These are very, very conservative numbers for a high-profile family film this season, especially given how well films like Night at the Museum and Mary Poppins Returns stretched decent openings to multiples of over seven and eight.

Warner Bros. could have just allowed Wonka to compete for audiences with next week’s Migration, but the studio has tripled down this season with both Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and another “Wait, it’s a musical?” in The Color Purple still to come. They appeal to somewhat different audiences, sure, but they’re both still competition nevertheless, and that may prevent Wonka from generating the kind of domestic numbers WB was hoping for. Then again, globally the film is over $150 million already.

The Top 10 and Beyond: The Hunger Games Hangs On, Followed by Miyazaki and Godzilla

The film that Wonka is chasing for the tops of the season remains The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. Its opening of $44.6 million (a week after The Marvels) was considered lackluster, but here it is in week five and it’s still No. 2, surviving weeks of competition. Adding another $5.8 million, its total its up to over $145 million, which does feel lackluster given that Mockingjay Part 2 had $246 million in the same stretch. But it’s also just $6 million behind where Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was, and it bested its fifth weekend by about a million and a half. For weeks now we have had the film destined to finish in the $160-175 million range, and that still seems very likely. Wonka will need to multiply its opening by at least 4.6 to achieve that goal. Meanwhile, Ballad is just the 15th film of the year to gross over $300 million worldwide and the first to do so since Meg 2: The Trench.

After becoming a hugely welcome No. 1 last week, Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron fell back 60% to third place with $5.1 million. That brings its total up to $23.1 million, far and away the most successful domestic release of any of his films. Its second weekend is just a bit above what Charlize Theron and Aeon Flux did back in 2005 ($4.5 million), though its total is about $2.6 million higher. That has Miyazaki’s film on a path to pass $30 million. The cinema of Japan has also broken through with Godzilla Minus One, which grossed $4.8 million in its third weekend to drive its total to $34.2 million. That nearly matches what Star Trek: Nemesis had after 17 days ($33.8 million) and its third weekend ($4 million), suggesting this Godzilla is headed somewhere over $44 million. It is already one of the highest-grossing foreign language releases ever, a list that now includes The Boy and the Heron (though that film does have showings of its English dubbed version).

Rounding out the top five is another family film in search of a milestone. Trolls Band Together took in $4 million to bring its total to $88.7 million in weekend five. That is a couple million higher than Disney’s Encanto had back in 2021, which had fallen to just $1.8 million in its fifth weekend and finished with $96 million. The third Trolls film is ahead of that curve and is still headed towards just getting itself over $100 million. Worldwide it is over $180 million, which still brings it up short of getting itself into profit territory. Another kids’ movie nowhere close to hitting its mark is Disney’s Wish, which is down to $3.2 million in its fourth week. At $54.2 million, the animated film trails the 24-day total of The Haunted Mansion – the Eddie Murphy one from 2003 – which had $55.8 million after a $2.8 million fourth weekend. That film did go on to gross $75 million, but that is little consolation for a $200 million production is struggling to even hit $150 million worldwide.

In the special release realm, Fathom Events’ Christmas with the Chosen: Holy Night grossed $3 million in 2,059 theaters and has made $4.7 million since its release on Tuesday. It finished in seventh place, while way down in ninth place in its third weekend is Renaissance: A Film By Beyonce. AMC’s concert film release made $2 million, and in 11 total days of release (remember, no Mon-Weds), it has grossed $30.8 million, marginally better than the One Direction concert back in 2013. Bleecker Street’s release of Waitress: The Musical fell 85% down to just $483,000 but has grossed $4.8 million. Bollywood film Animal made $848,000 in its third weekend, bringing its total to $13.6 million, which ranks it third all time behind Pathaan and Jawan. Wedged in between them in eighth place is Ridley Scott’s Napoleon with $2.2 million. That brings its domestic total to $57 million and a global total of over $188 million, which has surpassed Apple’s production of Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon ($155+ million) while trailing its North American haul of $67 million.

Mildly expanding in its limited release is Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, which moved from 9 theaters into 82 and found its way into the top 10 with $1.28 million for a terrific per-theater average of $15,549. That is in the neighborhood of a pair of other Searchlight releases around this time that went on to become Oscar-winners: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri expanded from four to 53 theaters and made $1.1 million, while The Shape of Water moved from two to 41 theaters and made $1.14 million. Each went on to lengthy awards season runs and grossed $54 million and $63 million, respectively. Three Billboards moved into 600+ theaters in its third weekend over Thanksgiving back in 2017. Poor Things is already a major awards player and should see itself rise on the charts in the coming weeks, starting with a move into more than 800 theaters next week.

In other limited release news, Focus’ release of Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction opened to $227,000 in 7 theaters for a PTA of $32,428; it moves into 40 theaters next week. A24 debuted Jonathan Glazer’s outside-the-walls-of-Auschwitz tale The Zone of Interest to $124,000 in four theaters. That’s the 14th-best PTA of the year behind the same studio’s Beau is Afraid (second), Past Lives (4th), Dream Scenario (9th), and Priscilla (12th). Finally, Neon’s Eileen grossed $201,000 to bring its total to $1.2 million.

On the Vine: A Little Something for Everyone

It is the end of 2023 and we are finishing in busy fashion. Warner Bros. is hoping to squeeze the last few dimes out of the old DC universe with the oft-delayed Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Universal and Illumination is hoping there are enough family dollars to go around for their animated Migration, which began its international run with over $12 million this weekend. Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney try a Ticket to Paradise with the rom-com Anyone But You, and A24 releases the tale of the Von Erich wrestling family in The Iron Claw. Then comes Christmas with Warner Bros.’ musical version of The Color Purple, while Michael Mann tells the story of Ferrari and George Clooney directs the 1930s underdog rowing film The Boys in the Boat.

Full List of Box Office Results: December 15-17, 2023

  • $39 million ($39 million total)

  • $5.8 million ($145.2 million total)

  • $5.1 million ($23.1 million total)

  • $4.8 million ($34.2 million total)

  • $4 million ($88.7 million total)

  • $3.2 million ($54.2 million total)

  • $3 million ($4.7 million total)

  • $2.2 million ($57 million total)

  • $2 million ($30.8 million total)

  • $1.2 million ($2.2 million total)

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 ©Warner Bros. Studios

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