The weekend after Thanksgiving always tends to be a bit of a downer at the box office, and that was almost the case again this year, though Black Panther: Wakanda Forever didn’t have quite as an easy walk with its fourth weekend in first place.
This Past Weekend
There wasn’t a ton to say that hasn’t been said over the past few weeks. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won its fourth weekend in a row with an estimated $17.6 million, although it wasn’t as far ahead of 2nd place as it was in years past, as it also dropped 61% from last weekend. So far, it has grossed $393.7 million domestic, which makes it the third-highest grossing movie in North America for the year, though it’s close enough to $400 million and Doctor Strange’s $411.3 million domestic take, it could be #1 soon enough. It has also grossed $339.3 million overseas, which brings its global total to $733 million, clinching Marvel as Disney’s current #1 moneymaker, at least theatrically.
The weekend’s big new release was Universal Pictures’ R-rated holiday action-comedy Violent Night, starring David Harbour (Stranger Things) as a drunken ready-to-quit version of Santa Claus who must come to the rescue of a wealthy family held hostage by mercenaries. Co-starring John Leguizamo and directed by Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow), the movie received mixed-positive reviews – Below the Line’s J. Don Birnam gave it a “C+.” After making $1.1 million in Thursday previews, it ended up with $4.9 million on Friday, which was enough to beat Wakanda Forever for at least one day, but it ended up with an estimated $13.3 million for the weekend, putting it in second place. Violent Night made another $7.1 million overseas, including a million in the UK, so it should be a relative hit for Universal after a couple disappointing prestige releases.
Disney’s Strange World took third place with $4.9 million, a hefty 60% drop from its opening weekend, but to be fair, its opening weekend was boosted by the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but not by much. “Strange World” has grossed $25.5 million so far, which is pretty terrible considering there is no other family movie competition in theaters.
Searchlight Studios’ dark comedy The Menu, starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes, continues to do well with another $3.6 million for fourth place, down just 35% from Thanksgiving weekend. It has grossed $24.7 million, domestically, the best showing for Searchlight since pre-pandemic, but it’s also a bit of a sore point for parent company Disney, since it probably cost substantially less to make than Strange World.
Sony’s fighter pilot drama, Devotion, starring Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick), took about a 53% drop from its own opening weekend to take fifth place with $2.8 million. It has grossed $13.8 million, so far, which is terrible for a movie that has a reported production budget of $90 million. It’s not going to get much help overseas where it’s grossed roughly the same.
The faith-based drama, I Heard The Bells, is a movie about the writing of the titular Christmas carol by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which may not seem like something anyone might want to see in theaters. In fact, it made $2.6 million since opening on Thursday ($1.8 million for the weekend) as a release into 955 theaters through Fathom Events to take sixth place.
Black Adam took seventh place with $1.7 million to bring its domestic total to $165.2 million. It has grossed $219 million overseas for a global total of $384.2 million, so it’s barely covering its $195 million production budget.
Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans took eighth place with $1.3 million (down 42.5%) and $5.6 million grossed so far, which is better than Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All, which took ninth place with just under $1.2 million and $6 million. Both these movies continue the trend of movies that get raves on the festival circuit but can’t find an audience otherwise. Universal has seemingly given up on The Fabelmans despite its fantastic reviews, because it hasn’t expanded it into more than its 638 theaters. This coming weekend may be the last time for Universal to grab some screens for Spielberg’s latest, but it’s already scheduled to hit VOD on Dec. 13, so it may be too late for it.
Top Gun: Maverick was re-released into 1,864 theaters for no particular reason, and it added another $700,000, a drop on the bucket compared to the $717 million already made domestically. It’s curious why Paramount Pictures didn’t wait to give it a theatrical re-release until Christmas or after Golden Globes and Oscar nominations are announced.
Crunchyroll released its third anime film of the fall, The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, into 910 theaters. With generally only one or two showings per venue, it only brought in $502,000 or $551 per theater, basically D.O.A.
Focus Features opened the Michael (The Big Sick) Showalter-directed romantic drama, Spoiler Alert, starring Jim Parsons and Ben Aldrich, into six theaters in New York, L.A., and San Fran, but it didn’t do great with an estimated $85,000 per theater or $14,166 per site.
A24 released Joanna Hogg’s The Eternal Daughter, starring Tilda Swinton, into 29 theaters – Exec. Producer Martin Scorsese made a rare appearance at New York’s Metrograph on Friday night – but overall, it only grossed $33,000 or $1,161 per theater.
This was not a great weekend at the box office, as we’re back to the top ten movies earning less than $50 million cumulatively. Sure, it can be blamed on the post-Thanksgiving, pre-holiday weekend or the World Cup, but frankly, it’s just because there isn’t much of interest in theaters to the teen and 20-to-30-something audience that’s still going to the movies. Violent Night and Menu are benefitting from being targeted to that demographic.
|Rank||Entry||Distributor||Revenue||Theater Count||Total Revenue|
|1||Black Panther: Wakanda Forever||Walt Disney||$17,540,051||3,855||$393,671,128|
|3||Strange World||Walt Disney||$5,085,335||4,174||$25,684,071|
|4||The Menu||Searchlight Pictures||$3,471,324||2,810||$24,640,056|
|6||I Heard the Bells||Fathom Events||$2,001,603||1,082||$2,771,747|
|7||Black Adam||Warner Bros.||$1,565,051||2,231||$165,071,691|
|9||Bones and All||United Artists||$1,188,698||2,727||$6,038,432|
|10||Ticket to Paradise||Universal||$854,680||1,715||$66,528,855|
As mentioned above, studios tend to be skittish about releasing movies in the weaker post-Thanksgiving weekend, but last year, Focus Features dumped Nathalie Biancheri’s indie Wolf into 308 theaters. With very little promotion, that movie tanked with just $82,640 or $268 per theater, which was even worse than Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta, which was released that weekend by IFC Films into 201 theaters.
An even bigger “stealth release” that weekend was Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers, which opened in 1,700 theaters on Wednesday, making $9.1 million in its first five days with $4.2 million over the three-day weekend, enough for it to open in fourth place.
Encanto was #1 with $13.1 million, Ghostbusters: Afterlife took second place with $10.3 million, and House of Gucci was in third place with $7 million.
If this past weekend at the box office wasn’t bad enough, things are about to get a whole lot worse. Basically, Focus is expanding Spoiler Alert nationwide, and for whatever reason, Sony is re-releasing Mark Wahlberg’s Father Stu in a PG-13 version, and that’s about it.
It’s hard to imagine either movie will get into the top five, especially with Focus only expanding Spoiler Alert into a meager 600 theaters i.e. the same number in which Spielberg’s Fabelmans tanked over Thanksgiving. Reviews have been fine with 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, but based on its showing in limited release, it’s doubtful Spoiler Alert can pull in more than two million this weekend. Where it falls on the high or low end of that amount will determine whether it breaks into the top five or falls just behind.
Father Stu: Reborn (as it’s called) is an even stranger decision by Sony, since the movie opened earlier this year with $5.4 million and only made $20.7 million domestically. Apparently, the movie has been seen by millions on Netflix in its R-rated form, so someone thought that a PG-13 version might bring people back into theaters. That’s what Sony is doing, although at the time of this writing, it’s unknown how many theaters will play it, anything over a million for this one will be a stunner.
Two prominent festival movies will finally hit select cities this weekend with A24 platforming Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, starring Brandon Fraser in a performance that’s likely to get him awards love, along with Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, and Samantha Morton.
Also, Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light – the follow-up to his 2019 Oscar-winning war film, 1917 – is being released by Searchlight Studios into roughly 100 theaters. Starring Oscar-winners Olivia Colman and Colin Firth, as well as newcomer Micheal Ward, and Toby Jones, the personal film tells the story of the employees at a British seaside movie theater. Presumably, there are plans for a wider release sometime in the next month, but it’s coming into a market where adult-targeted Oscar fodder just isn’t delivering.
Either way, Wakanda Forever will win its fifth and final weekend at #1 with Violent Night offering even more competition in second place. Thankfully, James Cameron’s long-awaited Avatar: The Way of the Water will open next week to give the box office a much-needed holiday boost.
Edward Douglas has been writing about the box office for 21 years at places like ComingSoon.net, The Tracking Board, and many others, but mostly under the banner of “The Weekend Warrior.” He’s also a film critic with bylines at Film Journal, The New York Daily News, Den of Geek, and other places.