Weekend Box Office

Weekend Box Office Results: Wonka Retakes the Crown from Aquaman

Warner Bros.' family-friendly treat could become not only the hit of the holiday season, but the highest-grossing film since Barbenheimer rocked the box office.

by | January 2, 2024 | Comments


While doom and gloom is being laid for the upcoming year amidst all the strike delays and the lackluster release schedule, people are still finding stuff to watch in movie theaters as the 2023 box office crossed $9 billion, up from $7.36 billion in 2022. Never underestimate the holiday season for comebacks and grosses that may not be nearly as successful during any other time of the year. A prequel regained the top spot and families have been taking advantage of vacations to help some films get a little closer at least to being called hits for their respective studios.

King of the Crop: Wonka Retakes the Crown from Aquaman

Warner Bros.’ Wonka from director Paul King took the crown once again for the second time in three weeks, earning $22.6 million through the weekend and driving its total to over $133 million in its first 17 days (and an estimated $140.1 million through 18). That puts the candy maker’s pace ahead of the grid from Tron: Legacy, which had $131 million through 17 days after an $18.7 million third weekend.

Those numbers give Wonka an edge in passing two key movies on the year. It will likely pass The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes as the seasonal victor by next weekend, as its gross will be over $160 million through New Years Day. But with potentially a floor of at least $180 million domestic, it would actually be the only film to outgross Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour since its release and the highest-grossing film at the box office since the Barbenheimer phenomenon. That will make it one of the top 10 films of the year domestically. It will need $476 million to enter the global list, and it is well on its way with now over $386 million. Wonka and The Hunger Games are the only films to cross $300 million worldwide since since Meg 2: The Trench. Wonka will also be the first to pass $400 million since Barbie and Oppenheimer.

The Top 10 and Beyond: Aquaman Flounders a Bit, The Color Purple Fades After Strong Opening

Warner Bros., DC, and James Wan’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is going to join that list as well, as it added $20 million to its total in the days since Christmas and then made another $18.2 million this weekend to bring its pre-New Years Day total to about $76.6 million. That is actually a tad more than what Wonka had in its first 10 days and right on par with what that film did in weekend two. But the split on those paths should occur this upcoming week, as Aquaman is unlikely to earn a boost on the weekend before kids go back to school. Speaking of diminishing returns, it will likely be closer to the numbers for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which Aquaman is just ahead of and should be next week if it stays above $9.2 million. As long as it does, it should be headed for over $130 million domestic — better than The Flash but no Black Adam, both of which were major losers in the books. Lost Kingdom added $50 million to its global haul this weekend and is up to over $250 million worldwide, but that is a far cry from the billion dollars of the original, as well as balancing the books for the studio.

Universal and Illumination’s Migration grossed nearly as much as Aquaman during the week and saw a boost from a $12.4 million opening to a $17 million second weekend. At $54 million through its first 10 days, the animated film is a bit behind the pace of Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the lowest-grossing film in that franchise, which had a $20.2 million second weekend back in 2014 and earned nearly $55 million total. It ultimately finished with $113 million by the end of its run, so $100 million is still actually possible for Migration, keeping the streak alive for Illumination. With just a $72 million budget, some additional global cash beyond the $46 million it has made to date could actually keep the film on the right side of the ledger as well. Universal also is looking at some disappointment in Trolls Band Together which, despite on the verge of passing $100 million domestic, is only going to pass a bit over $200 million worldwide, nearly $150 million less than their last theatrically-released Trolls film, and is going to come up short of recouping its $95 million budget. (Remember approximately half of the grosses stay with the theaters and there are still costs for advertising, etc.). That’s still better than Disney’s Wish as it passed $61 million domestic and just $176 million worldwide.

Back to Warner Bros., their musical version of The Color Purple made quite the splash by having the second-best Christmas Day opening of all time with $18.1 million. During the next three days, it added $14.2 million, and over the weekend it added another $11.7 million. That is $44 million for those counting, which amounts to possibly less of a hit than it was hyped up to be after that opening. Granted, the numbers are a bit skewed, given its Monday opening, since $36.4 million in the first five days of release would give the film very strong odds for a $100 million gross. But if its first three days were worth $29 million during the holiday and a couple weekdays and then its first full weekend is just $11.7 million, it is not headed in the right direction. However, there are only two Christmas releases that failed to reach $100 million after having $50 million in their first 10 days of release – namely 1998’s Stepmom and the Tom Cruise thriller Valkyrie from 2008. The Color Purple should have somewhere around $50 million by the 10-day marker on Wednesday. The bad news for Warner Bros. is the $100 million production is not getting any international support at the moment, and even if the film does reach that figure domestically, there is no guarantee that $250 million worldwide is in the cards.

Making its first full weekend debut in the top five is George Clooney’s The Boys in the Boat, which began with a respectable $5.7 million on Christmas Day, added $7.9 million during the week, and then made $8.4 million over the long weekend. That is trending in a better word-of-mouth fashion, as it brings its total to over $22 million in its first seven days. That has it on a path for possibly over $60 million, and any way you slice it, the film will be at least Clooney’s second highest-grossing film to date (third is The Ides of March with $40 million) behind only his 2014 release of The Monuments Men, which made over $78 million.

Sixth place goes to Sony’s Anyone But You. The $25 million rom-com added $10 million during the week after just a $6 million opening, and then added $8.7 million over the weekend for a total of almost $25 million and about $27 million through Monday. The positive outlook on this is that these are actually very similar to Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo numbers, which had $24.3 million after 10 days and an $8.3 million second weekend on its way to over $65 million. Those numbers were also pre-holiday in December and had very good holds over the next several weeks. Worst case scenario is the film could be looking at Dude, Where’s My Car? numbers and finish closer to its $46 million haul — or below Sony’s R-rated summer comedy No Hard Feelings, which finished with over $50 million. Even George Clooney and Julia Roberts were able to get their we-hate-each-other-on-a-destination-wedding-trip film, Ticket To Paradise, up to $68.2 million domestic last year, though it did add $100 million in global sales to squeeze out a small victory.

Clooney has definitely taken a comfortable lead in the year-end sports film arena as Sean Durkin’s The Iron Claw from A24 fell back to seventh with $5 million — through New Year’s Day it will be around $18 million total. That film had a three-day head start on Michael Mann’s Ferrari, which grossed $4.06 million and bringing its total close to around $12 million through New Year’s Day. This week it will pass Three Identical Strangers to become the third highest-grossing domestic film in Neon’s history behind only I, Tonya ($30 million) and their Oscar-winning Best Picture Parasite ($53.3 million). Godzilla Minus One, now with $46 million in the bank through Monday, is getting very close to passing Parasite on the all-time list for highest-grossing domestic non-English releases. Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron (also with dubbed prints) is also climbing that list with nearly $37 million itself.

Squeezing into the top 10 is Yorgas Lanthimos’ Poor Things. Still in just 800 theaters, the film made $2.2 million over the weekend to cross $11 million in sales through New Year’s Day. The film is outpacing his last film, The Favourite, in overall gross simply by availability and expanding earlier than that film, which was in only 441 theaters in its fourth weekend and still managed to gross $2.6 million. Before Oscar nominations were announced, the film had made $22.9 million despite never being in more than 517 theaters, and then it grossed another $11.4 million post-nominations. Searchlight also still has Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers in just 6 theaters. It grossed $146,000 through the holiday and now has a total over $379,000. Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest from A24 is also in six theaters and it grossed another $132,000 to bring its total over $500,000. Amazon/MGM’s release is still waiting to expand Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction, which, in 40 theaters through Monday, made $534,000 and upped its total to $1.78 million.

On the Vine: 2024 Begins with an Ominous Night Swim

2024 will kick things off with a little Blumhouse. The film that will try to keep people out of the family pool — Night Swim — will be the solo wide release to start January, a month that has seen horror success the last two years with openings for M3GAN ($30.4 million) and 2022’s Scream ($30.0 million). Can the monster-in-the-pool film rise to those levels, or will it float in the shallow end?

Full List of Box Office Results: December 29, 2023 – January 1, 2024

  • $22.6 million (3-day) / $29.5 million (4-day); $140.1 million total

  • $18.2 million (3-day) / $23.5 million (4-day); $81.8 million total

  • $17 million (3-day) / $22 million (4-day); $59 million total

  • $11.7 (3-day) / $14.8 million (4-day); $47.1 million total

  • $8.4 (3-day) / $11.2 million (4-day); $24.8 million total

  • $8.7 million (3-day) / $11 million (4-day); $27 million total

  • $5 million (3-day) / $6.9 million (4-day); $18.2 million total

  • $4.06 million (3-day) / $5.21 million (4-day); $12 million total

  • $2.8 million (3-day) / $3.6 million (4-day); $160.6 million total

  • $2.2 million (3-day) / $2.9 million (4-day); $10.9 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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