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411 Box Office Report: Avatar: The Way Of Water Reigns For Second Week As Newcomers Disappoint

December 25, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER Image Credit: 20th Century Studios

Avatar: The Way Of Water easily kept its spot atop the box office for the holiday weekend, as its new competition came in low. The James Cameron blockbuster spent a second weekend at #1 as expected with $56 million over the three-day weekend and a projected $82 million including Monday. That three-day number is off 58% from the $134.1 million opening weekend, a not-unexpected development considering that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day took place on Saturday and Sunday.

As has been discussed, The Way Of Water has to notch some major numbers to be a success. The film cost a reported $400 million-plus before marketing. Thus far though, the numbers are holding solid. The coming week should be a big one for the film, as the week between Christmas and New Year tends to be, and last week’s day-to-day holds were quite good.

To date, the film has grossed $279.7 million – already doubling its opening weekend number – and $881.4 million worldwide. The film is tracking only about 14% behind Top Gun: Maverick and while it won’t get much near that film’s $718.7 million total, the holiday season and lack of competition coming up should allow it to get to $500 million domestically. As was always going to be the case, the overseas numbers will determine whether it gets past the $2 billon mark, but it remains a possibility as of now.

Coming in at a distant #2 was Puss In Boots: The Last Wish. The sequel to the 2011 Shrek spinoff came in soft a $11.4 million over three days and a projected $17.8 million including Monday. Those numbers are below the $20 million/$30 million that some were expecting it to do.

What happened here? Well, part of it is something that will be a running theme this week: winter weather. The horrible weather across much of the US has caused several theaters to close (alongside sporting events and other such things), which did depress the box office. But it also has to be noted that this is a family film coming 11 years after the first film – which was itself liked but not loved. There was some hope that the critical love would help it; The Last Wish has a 95% aggregated score on Rotten Tomatoes, and the positive buzz did build some expectations.

The good news for Puss In Boots come in two forms: the holiday season and positive word of mouth. This season is always great for family films; last year, Sing 2 had an incredible hold and septupled its opening weekend for $162.8 million. Puss in Boots’ A CinemaScore and 93% RT audience score will help it out, though it won’t have the same legs as Sing 2. The bad news is that it’s going to need all the help it can get, as the movie cost $90 million plus marketing. As of now it has $24.7 million domestically and $57.2 million worldwide; that latter number is concerningly low. Domestically it can probably get to $75 million, and maybe a bit higher, but the overseas numbers will need to pick up for it to make profit.

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody came in at #3 with an uninspiring $5.3 million over three days and $7.5 million over four. The biopic was hoping for a $10 million four-day total, but not so much here. The number is well below even the $8.8 million start of 2021’s Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, which was itself considered to be a disappointment.

A big part of the problem here is simple: the film isn’t well-liked. Biopics target an older crowd, and that crowd tends to listen to reviews more. I Wanna Dance fell flat with critics at a 46% RT score, though at least audiences who saw it liked it (a 92% RT audience score). The film was also bowled over in terms of marketing, with Avatar and Puss In Boots taking most of the air out of the room in that capacity.

The problem here is the cost of the film. I Wanna Dance cost a reported $45 million before marketing, and there’s virtually no way at this point that it hits breakeven as a result. As of now, it has $7.5 million domestically and $10.1 million worldwide, and seems likely to top out at maybe $35 million in the US. With the film already available in 31 markets overseas, it doesn’t look as if it will make up the difference there.

While the Whitney biopic didn’t do well, at least it’s not Babylon. Damien Chazelle’s big-budget movie about Hollywood’s early days flat-out bombed with just $3.5 million over three days and $5.4 million over four. These are incredibly poor numbers for a film that cost around $80 million, giving Paramount a major flop.

On paper, Babylon had all the ingredients to success. It has a cast of big-name stars like Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, a respected director in Chazelle, and Oscar aspirations. Those faded as the buzz around the film began to come out and it was polarizing, to say the least. Again, a film like this is going to bring in older viewers and the 55% RT rating was not inspiring to them.

Babylon’s other big problem lies in its word of mouth, which is not great. The movie has a C+ CinemaScore and a low 63% RT audience score, which suggests that this won’t be able to develop the kinds of legs it would need to avoid being a huge money loser. If it manages to pull in some more award nominations it could get a bit of a boost, but right now the $5.3 million domestic total won’t rise high enough to save this and international grosses will likely be low too. The film might hit $20 million, but not much higher.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever fell to #5 in the face of the newcomers, bringing in $3 million over three days (down 44%) and $4.7 million through Monday. The MCU film now has $427.4 million domestically and $801.2 million worldwide, another hit for Marvel Studios. It is still likely to close out its domestic run at about $440 million, good enough to be seventh-highest domestic gross of any MCU film. The budget was $250 million.

Violent Night slipped 63% in its fourth weekend, bringing in $1.9 million through Sunday and $2.9 million through Monday. The R-rated holiday action comedy is a hit for Universal at $41.4 million domestically and $61.6 million, against a $20 million budget. It should close out around $50 million in the US.

The Whale expanded its theater count and climbed into the top 10 with $921,000 over three days and $1.3 million over four. The Brendan Fraser-starring A24 drama has been garnering a lot of buzz for Fraser’s performance, even as the film on its own has a much less enthusiastic overall response at a barely-positive 65% RT score.

Audiences have been enjoying The Whale though at a 93% audience score, and that should provide it with a bit of a boost – especially when Oscar nominations come in, as Fraser is considered a lock for a nod. It has $2.9 million so far and it’s hard to currently say where it might end up, because we don’t know how much further it will be platformed up.

The Menu was off 62% in its sixth week, bringing in $617,000 over three days and $917,000 over four days. The comedy-thriller is a hit for Searchlight with $34.1 million domestically and $66.6 million worldwide, with a $30 million budget. The final total looks to be around $38 million.

The Fabelmans had the best hold in the top 10, down just 26% as it continues to expand with $550,000 over three days and $880,000 over four. The Spielberg drama needs all the help it can get though, as it has just $10.1 million stateside and $10.3 million worldwide against a $40 million budget. This one will get boosts when Oscar nods are announced, but it is unlikely to break even on a $40 million budget.

Strange World closed out the top 10, cratering 82% over the three-day period with $410,000 and $675,000 over four days. The Disney Animation bomb is now available on Disney+, and those with families are going to Puss In Boots if they’re seeing any animated film in theaters. The film has $35.9 million domestically and $62.7 million worldwide, a bomb against a $135 million budget. It won’t make it to $40 million domestically.

There are no new wide releases next weekend, so Avatar: The Way Of Water will remain on top.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day & Four-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Avatar: The Way Of Water – $56 million/$82 million ($279.7 million total, $881.4 million WW)
2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish – $11.4 million/$17.8 million ($24.7 million total, $57.2 million WW)
3. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody – $5.3 million/$7.5 million ($7.5 million total, $10.2 million WW)
4. Babylon – $3.5 million/$5.4 million ($5.4 million total/$5.4 million WW)
5. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – $3 million/$4.7 million ($427 million total, $801.2 million WW)
6. Violent Night – $1.9 million/$2.9 million ($41.4 million total, $61.6 million WW)
7. The Whale – $921,000/$1.3 million ($2.9 million total/$2.9 million WW)
8. The Menu – $617,000/$900,000 ($34.1 million total, $66.6 million WW)
9. The Fabelmans – $550,000/$880,000 ($10.1 million total, $10.3 million WW)
10. Strange World – $410,000/$675,000 ($35.9 million total, $62.7 million WW)