Christmas weekend was a cold one in many parts of the country, but especially in movie theaters where there just weren’t the warm bodies that usually flock to theaters over the extended holiday. Three new wide releases failed to bring in anywhere near the expected audiences, despite there being a wide variety of options this Christmas weekend.
This Past Weekend
This weekend was always going to be about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water in its second weekend where it took in $64 million, down 52% from its opening weekend. With another $26 million projected for the Monday after Christmas Day, The Way of Water will have grossed $287.7 million domestically through Monday. Overseas, the fantasy sequel has grossed over $600 million through Sunday, which brings its global total to $888 million. That makes it the fifth-highest grossing movie globally for 2022, but making that amount in less than two weeks makes it a shoe-in to join the billion dollar club in the next week or so.
On Wednesday, Universal released the animated sequel, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, featuring the voices of Antonio Bandera, Salma Hayek, John Mulaney and more. After making $6.1 million in its first two days, the movie added another $12.42 million over the three-day weekend and a projected $20 million including Monday. That puts the movie at $26.1 million in its first six days, which is significantly less than Sing 2 last year. (See below for last year’s box office, as comparison.) On the other hand, the Puss in Boots sequels has scored unprecedented great reviews, which not only should help its legs but also its odds to get an Oscar nomination in the Animated Feature category.
Sony released the Whitney Houston biopic, appropriately called Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, starring Naomi Ackie as the ‘90s award-winning pop diva, but it faltered big time, making less than $5 million over the three-day weekend in 3,625 theaters. Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Harriet), the movie averaged $1,876 per theater, which is not a great start even with an “A” CinemaScore (same as Puss in Boots) that could also show the movie having legs.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Damien Chazelle’s fifth feature, the fictionalized old Hollywood exposé Babylon, starring Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, and more, did even worse than the Whitney biopic, with an estimated $5.3 million in the movie’s first four-day weekend in 3,343 theaters. With a reported budget of $80 million, Babylon was plagued by relatively poor reviews, which didn’t help matters, and neither will the fact that it won’t open overseas until January. (Above the Line’s own Isaac Feldberg gave Chazelle’s latest a “D-” grade in his own review, and audience polls through CinemaScore ranked it with a “C+” — not good.)
Chazelle’s divisive epic also was neck-and-neck with both Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Violent Night for third through fifth places, as those two films earning $3.5 million for the three-day weekend with Wakanda nearing $428 million domestically and Violent Night at $43.4 million after four weekends.
A24 expanded Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, starring Brendan Fraser, moderately into 603 theaters nationwide on Weds, but it really didn’t have much of an impact, grossing $1 million over the three-day weekend or $1,658 per theater. It’s estimated to have grossed $3 million through Monday, which is not great for any plans of expansion.
Despite already being available on VOD, Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans dropped just one spot to eighth place with $750,000 over the three-day weekend and $1.1 million, including Monday. Although it’s thought to be one of the frontrunners for Best Picture at the Oscars, it has only grossed $10.3 million domestically.
Meanwhile, Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light is pretty much dead, as Searchlight decided not to expand it further this weekend, as originally planned. Instead, it lost 86 theaters and dropped 68% to $71,000, while remaining in 11th place.
U.A. Releasing had delayed the release of Sarah Polley’s festival favorite, Women Talking, a number of times before deciding to platform it into eight theaters in select cities this past Friday. It made $41,000 over the three-day weekend, which is a paltry $8,000 average per venue, which is not good for its planned expansion on Jan. 6, 2023.
Two other prestige films received platform releases with IFC Films’ Corsage, starring Vicky Krieps making $32,000 in two theaters and Sony Pictures Classics’ Living, starring Bill Nighy, ending up with $21,233 in three theaters. Corsage scored the best per-theater-average of any movie in theaters, including Avatar.
The top ten grossed under $95 million over the three-day portion of the Christmas holiday weekend, which is down by over $45 million from the same holiday weekend last year.
|Rank||Entry||Distributor||Revenue||Theater Count||Total Revenue|
|1||Avatar: The Way of Water||20th Century Studios||$63,338,220||4,202||$261,019,906|
|2||Puss in Boots: The Last Wish||Universal||$12,429,515||4,099||$18,532,370|
|3||Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody||Sony Pictures||$4,765,000||3,625||$4,765,000|
|6||Black Panther: Wakanda Forever||Walt Disney||$3,492,584||2,250||$426,147,985|
|9||The Menu||Searchlight Pictures||$678,252||840||$33,858,095|
|10||Strange World||Walt Disney||$413,277||1,390||$35,602,519|
Last year, Christmas Day fell on a Saturday, and Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home continued to dominate the box office with $84.5 million, which was a 67% drop from its record-setting opening weekend. In just ten days, it had grossed $470.4 million domestically, which was already double the next highest-grossing movie of 2021.
Universal’s animated sequel, Sing 2, opened on the Weds. before Christmas and by Sunday, it had grossed $37.9 million in its first five days for a strong second place.
That did better than all the weekend’s other new movies, which were bombs of varying sizes, beginning with Warner Bros’ The Matrix Resurrections, the return of Lana Wachowski’s blockbuster sci-fi franchise which was simultaneously released on HBO Max as its release into 3,552 theaters. It made $21.2 million in its first five days with $10.7 million over the three-day weekend for third place.
Matthew Vaughn’s prequel The King’s Man only opened in 3,180 theaters, but that did even worse with $5.9 million over the weekend and $9.6 million including Weds. and Thurs.
Lionsgate released the faith-based sports drama, American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story, into 2,813 theaters on Christmas Day Saturday, and it made as much as The King’s Man in just two days.
Also opening on Christmas Day, the Denzel Washington-directed A Journal for Jordan, starring Michael B. Jordan, bombed with just $2.2 million in 2,500 theaters, averaging $881 per theater.
There are no new wide releases this weekend, although Tom Hanks’ A Man Called Otto will get a limited Oscar-qualifying release on Friday, Dec. 30, but we’ll write more about that before its wide release on Jan. 13.
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.