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HomeBox OfficeMust Reads 01/02/24: Wonka Wins New Year's Box Office, Toms Wilkinson and...

Must Reads 01/02/24: Wonka Wins New Year’s Box Office, Toms Wilkinson and Smothers Die, and More Industry News

Welcome to 2024, and here’s hoping for a year free of pandemics and strikes — a quick reminder that IATSE and other below-the-line guilds will need to renegotiate their Basic Contract later this year!

Things ended on a bit of a down note, as the box office was nowhere near where it usually is over the holidays, with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom failing to be the big holiday blockbuster we’ve seen in the past, even during the pandemic where Spider-Man: No Way Home and Avatar: Way of the Water both thrived.

Although Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom did win its first weekend just before Christmas Day, it wasn’t able to hold up against the bad reviews and word-of-mouth, so it had to settle for second place in its second weekend. Instead, another Warner Bros release, the musical prequel Wonka, starring Timothée Chalamet, won the weekend with $22.7 million over the three-day weekend and a projected $29.4 million including New Year’s Day. That three-day was up 26% from last weekend, bringing Wonka to $140 million domestic. Overseas, the Paul King-directed movie grossed another $39.1 million to bring its international total to $244.4 million and global total to $379 million. The UK is the big grosser as far as territories where Wonka has played, racking up $55.3 million since opening there in early December. It’s doing better across almost all territories (except for China) than Aquaman.

Aquaman dropped 34% from its opening weekend to second place with $18.3 million over the three-day weekend and a projected $23.5 million including Monday. It has grossed just $81.8 million since opening before Christmas. Overseas, it’s doing much better, partially thanks to China, which has accounted for $45.8 million of the movie’s international box office. This past weekend, it added $50.5 million overseas (just in the three-day portion of the weekend) to bring its international gross to $173.6 million and global total to $251.5 million. Between its three global releases, Warner Bros. has racked up almost $700 million worldwide just in December.

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s Migration held up strong in its second weekend, up 37% from its opening with $17 million three-day and an estimated $22 million four-day to take third place. It has grossed $58.5 million domestically so far, which isn’t great for a family film over the holidays, but it was also helped by international grosses of

Meanwhile, Warners’ third release, the musical The Color Purple, which was the #1 movie on Christmas Day with the second-highest box office for that holiday, dropped over the course of the week to end up in fourth place for its first full weekend with $11.7 million over the three-day and an estimated $14.4 million, including New Year’s Day. It’s estimated to have made $46.7 million in its first week, with Warner Bros. overestimating the box office for many of its films on Sunday with the thought that projector issues at a few key Alamo Drafthouse theaters may have hurt business on New Year’s Eve.

It was followed by the Sony rom-com Anyone But You, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, which took fifth place with $8.8 million three day, a projected $11.6 million including New Year’s Day, and $27.7 million grossed domestically so far.

Three sports dramas followed with George Clooney‘s The Boys in the Boat taking sixth place with $11.2 million over the four-day weekend, Sean Durkin‘s The Iron Claw taking sixth with $6.9 million, and Michael Mann‘s Ferrari taking eighth with $5.2 million. Clooney’s film is well ahead of the other two with $24.8 million grossed domestically, while the other two movies have made less than $15 million.

Weekend Box Office
Rank Entry Distributor Revenue Theater Count Total Revenue
1 Wonka Warner Bros. $22,665,000 4,115 $133,318,000
2 Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Warner Bros. $18,270,000 3,787 $76,615,000
3 Migration Universal $17,010,355 3,839 $54,103,000
4 The Color Purple Warner Bros. $11,735,000 3,203 $44,035,000
5 Anyone But You Sony Pictures $8,750,000 3,055 $24,835,000
6 The Boys in the Boat MGM $8,400,000 2,557 $21,998,000
7 The Iron Claw A24 $5,044,847 2,774 $16,359,994
8 Ferrari Neon $4,063,910 2,386 $10,920,617
9 The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Lionsgate $2,880,000 1,660 $159,847,500
10 The Boy and the Heron (君たちはどう生きるか) GKIDS $2,504,418 940 $35,968,236
Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)

Let’s get to some other news that broke over the holiday break, and sadly, 2023 also ended on a down note with a number of tragic deaths, including that of two-time Oscar nominee, Tom Wilkinson, who died at the age of 75. Wilkinson received nominations for his supporting role in Tony Gilroy‘s Michael Clayton and lead role in Todd Field‘s feature debut, In the Bedroom.

No cause of death was given, but his agent released a statement over the weekend, saying, “It is with great sadness that the family of Tom Wilkinson announce that he died suddenly at home on December 30. His wife and family were with him. The family asks for privacy at this time.”

Lee Syun-Kun in Parasite (NEON)

A similar tragedy and a bigger shock was the announcement that South Korean actor Lee Sun-Kyun, one of the stars of 2019’s Oscar-winning Best Picture, Parasite, had died at the young age of 48, after going missing in Seoul. He was later found dead in a car after his family reported finding a suicide note. Lee had been arrested and under investigation over drug use allegations amid a crackdown by the South Korean government, forcing Lee to drop out of the drama, No Way Out.

Tom Smothers (L) with Judy Collins and brother Dick Smothers on The Smothers Brothers Show (CBS)

Another sad death, this one from the world of television, were the reports late last week that Tom Strothers, the elder half of the legendary Smothers Brothers, had died at the age of 86 in Santa Rosa, California, on Dec. 26, after a battle with cancer. His death was announced on behalf of the Smothers family via the National Comedy Center.

Smothers and his brother, Dick Smothers, began their careers as folk musicians in the late ’50s before Tom became a regular on The Steve Allen Show in 1961. He then reunited with Dick in 1965 for The Smothers Brothers Show, which ran for two years on CBS. That led in 1967 to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and the two brothers continued to work together and make appearances on television, leading up to them receiving a special Emmy at the 60th Primetime Emmys in 2008, presented by Steve Martin. Previously, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour received an Emmy for its Outstanding Writing, but Tom Smothers asked for his name to not be included.

Other deaths included Tony-winning tap dancing actor Maurice Hines and actor Richard Romanus (The SopranosMean Streets), both who died at the age of 80. Hines was a legend of stage and screen, appearing in notable films like Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Cotton Club, the last time he performed with his brother, Gregory Hines.

Some older news from a few weeks back is that Warner Bros. won a bidding war for the action-comedy called Calamity Hustle, starring Ryan Reynolds and Channing TatumAdam & Aaron Nee wrote the script and will direct the movie that will shoot in New York, L.A., and Las Vegas, set around the holiday season. In the vein of Lethal Weapon with hopes of launching a similar franchise, Reynolds plays a cop who has been estranged from his criminal brother, played by Tatum, the two of them having grown up on the “wrong side of the tracks” and going in opposite directions until Tatum’s character is implicated in a diamond heist, forcing his brother to track him down.

2024 began with its very first series renewal as Apple TV+ gave Slow Horses, starring Gary Oldman, a fifth season. The series received five BAFTA TV nominations, but has yet to get into the mix for the Primetime Emmys, which will finally take place on Monday, Jan. 15, after being delayed from September.

Also, Mickey Mouse has hit the public domain similar to Winnie the Pooh did last year, so expect lots of bad low-budget horror movies starring Walt Disney’s crown creation over the coming years.

No new trailers this week/year just yet, but here’s a trailer for J.A. Bayona‘s terrific Spanish-language drama, Society of the Snow, which will be streaming on Netflix starting Friday. You can read J. Don Birnam‘s review here. Hopefully, we’ll have another installment of “Must Reads” later this week, all depending on how quickly Hollywood ramps up after the holidays.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.


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