Sometimes, the weekends with seemingly few high profile new wide releases end up being the most compelling ones. That was not the case this time last year (see below), but it certainly was this year, despite two movies continuing to dominate over all.
This Past Weekend
James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water became the fourth-highest grossing movie worldwide this weekend with $2.11 billion worldwide, putting a feather in the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s cap for having directed three of the four biggest worldwide box office grossers ever.
Here in North America, The Way of Water won its seventh weekend with an estimated $15.7 million, down just 22% from last weekend. It crossed the $600 million mark this past weekend and has now grossed $620.6 million including the weekend. It’s currently the 11th highest-grossing movie domestically, but it’s clearly eyeing the $623.4 million made by Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012. Once it passes that number, it will be Cameron’s third movie in the all-time top ten.
DreamWorks Animation’s sequel, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, held onto second place with $10.6 million, down 15% from last weekend, bringing its domestic total to $140.8 million, putting it less than $10 million away from matching the gross of the original Puss in Boots from 2011. Overseas, it added another $14.3 million to bring its worldwide total to $334.1 million.
Tom Hanks also continues to bring in business with his Sony Pictures release, A Man Called Otto, which made $6.8 million (down 22%) this weekend to bring its domestic total to $46.1 million.
It swapped places with Universal’s horror hit, M3GAN, which dropped to fourth place with $6.4 million (down 34%), but the $82.3 million it has grossed in the last month makes it one of the year’s first profitable hits.
Yash Raj Films released the Bollywood actioneer Pathaan, directed by Siddharth Anand, into 694 theaters on Wednesday. After making $2.6 million in its first two days, it scored an estimated $5.9 million over the weekend for a five-day total of $8.5 million. Considering the miniscule promotional budget Bollywood films get for domestic release, this is quite a coup for the veteran distributor, who might be able to attribute some of the film’s success to the Telugu-language cult hit, “RRR,” which was nominated for an Oscar last week. UPDATE: Actual numbers for Pathaan has it making $6.9 million over the three-day weekend and $9.5 million including Weds. and Thurs., so we could see a shake-up where it ends up opening in third place, depending on the actual numbers for M3GAN and A Man Called Otto.
The Sony thriller MISSING dropped to sixth place with $5.7 million, down 38% from its opening weekend, for a total of $17.6 million.
Well Go USA released the Chinese epic, The Wandering Earth II, into 142 theaters this weekend to take advantage of the Lunar New Year celebration. It racked up $3 million (including $1.7 million from “special screenings” on Thursday), enough for an eighth place opening. That was almost twice the opening of the original movie in 2019, although it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $320.7 million the sequel has made in China this week.
NEON released Brandon Cronenberg’s latest thriller, Infinity Pool, starring Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård, into 1,835 theaters on Friday following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Despite solid reviews, American moviegoing audiences weren’t having it, going by its “C-” CinemaScore, and it had to settle for a ninth place opening with $2.7 million or $1,488 per theater. (Look for Above the Line’s interview with Cronenberg this week.)
The top ten was rounded out by Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist, the Kevin Sorbo-directed faith-based drama based on the best-selling book series, last mined for the 2014 movie, starring Nicolas Cage, which grossed $20.8 million worldwide. This semi-sequel opened on Thxursday in 1,393 theaters with $610,000, and then grossed another $2.4 million over the weekend to just miss making $3 million in its first four days.
Just outside the top ten was Director Deon Taylor’s horror film, Fear, self-released into 974 theaters, where it made $1.3 million ($1,315 per theater), though it was bested by the one-day live concert event, Billy Eilish: Live at the O2, which made slightly more than that amount in 596 theaters
It seemed like every indie distributor was getting into the mix this weekend, because even Vertical Releasing, best known for its straight-to-VOD fare, got into the game this weekend, releasing the Michael Jacobs ensemble rom-com, starring Richard Gere, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, William H. Macy, and Emma Roberts, into 465 theaters this weekend where it grossed $562,000 or $1,209 per theater.
The other big box office story of the weekend was all the movies expanding into more theaters after receiving Oscar nominations this past week. The results were almost a tell-tale sign of how little moviegoers care about Oscar fare compared to just about anything else in theaters. A24 expanded Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All at Once into 1,400 theaters where it grossed just over a million, the same amount as Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale (also from A24), which added 130 theaters to 1,721 theaters.
That was also roughly what Sarah Polley’s Women Talking made, as U.A. Releasing finally got that into a nationwide release of 707 theaters, though its $2.4 million gross remains the lowest of all ten Best Picture nominees. (All Quiet on the Western Front doesn’t count, since Netflix rarely reports box office for anything.)
Meanwhile, Universal expanded Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans into 1,000 more theaters, but it only made $760,000 in those 1,962 theaters or $387 per theater, so clearly, that was never going to get any help from its own Oscar nominations.
On the other hand, the Belgian Oscar nominee, Close, directed by Lukas Dhont, was released by A24 into four theaters in New York and L.A. where it made about $68,000 or $17,000 per theater.
The end of January last year saw even less wide releases than this year, i.e. none. Because of that, the line-up was almost identical to the previous weekend with Spider-Man: No Way Home remaining at #1 with $14.5 million, followed by Scream in second place with $9.4 million, and Sing 2 in third place with $5.7 million. Only one Oscar Best Picture nominee, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, expanded after nominations were announced, but that might have been due to the Omicron spike.
This coming weekend is looking much more lively than this past one with Universal releasing M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller, Knock at the Cabin, based on Paul Tremblay’s novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, into over 3,500 theaters. The movie, a mix of a home invasion thriller and something more apocalyptic, stars Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint, Jonathan Groff, and Ben Aldridge (Spoiler Alert).
Early reactions have been fairly positive, and Shyamalan seems to be back in favor after returning to the world of Unbreakable for the two-movie sequel, Split and Glass, both which made over $100 million. Shyamalan’s last movie, Old, only opened with $16.8 million and made $48.2 million domestically, but it also opened in July 2021, fairly early in theaters reopening after being shuttered by the pandemic. Knock at the Cabin has a lot going for it, and being released after the weaker month of January should give it the advantage to open in first place with $23 to 25 million.
Not to be dissuaded by the potential sure-thing, Paramount Pictures offers counter-programming in the form of 80 for Brady, the well-timed movie about four elderly women who dream of going to the Super Bowl and meeting Tom Brady, into 3,700 theaters. This significant release is due to the fact it teams Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, and Sally Field, four acting legends, in a light-hearted comedy romp that should appeal to older women and football fans, particularly New Englanders due to Brady’s presence. (He’s a producer on the film, as well.) The success of Tom Hanks’ A Man Called Otto shows that older moviegoers are returning to theaters, which could help this make between $7 and 10 million, putting it in line for a second place opening, if it opens on the greater side of that range.
We then have a number of films that could be considered niche releases, if not for the fact that they are in line with other movies that have done decent business.
First of all, The Chosen Season 3 finale will be getting a wide release this weekend, hoping to drum up some of the same business as the November release of the first two episodes of Season 3, which opened with $8.8 million in 2,027 theaters. That was a surprise hit going up against a softer box office, opening with almost as much as The Menu in 1,000 more theaters. The season finale may end up more in the $6 to 7 million range, which could score it a fifth place opening. (A lot of what happens this weekend will depend on how many theaters and how much business Avatar and Puss in Boots loses with some real competition entering theaters.)
Next, we have the latest anime release from Crunchyroll with the long-ass title of Sword Art Online the Movie – Progressive – Scherzo of Deep Night. It’s the third film in a very popular and successful series of manga and anime, and the first movie of the series to be released theatrically in North America. No theater counts from Crunchyroll, as of yet, but this should be good for $4 to 5 million as it attracts that very specific fanbase.
Also, don’t be surprised if Trafalgar Releasing’s BTS: Yet to Come gets into the top ten based on the popularity of the Korean boy band. The last movie about the popular group entered the top ten with $6.8 million despite being a one-night-only live event. Yet to Come is opening on Weds. and getting a more straight-forward release.
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.