Christmas Box Office Rundown/End of Year Weekend Predictions!! Underperformances Across the Board, Though Bumblebee Makes a Surprisingly Strong Showing!! Aquaman takes Christmas Overall!!

Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Dec 21-Dec 23-Christmas Day): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Estimates

  1. Aquaman / $67,400,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Warner Bros.
    1. 5-Day Total: $101,000,000 ($105,715,000 with Amazon Previews)
  2. Mary Poppins Returns / $23,523,121 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Disney
    1. 5-Day Total: $36,368,237 (Friday-Christmas Day)
    2. 7-Day Total: $49,946,455 (Tuesday-Christmas Day)
  3. Bumblebee / $21,654,047 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Paramount
    1. 5-Day: $34,253,863
  4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse / $16,635,000 / -53% / Weekend 2 / Sony (Columbia)
    1. 5-Day: $25,625,000
  5. The Mule / $9,500,000 / -45.7% / Weekend 2 / Warner Bros.
    1. 5-Day: $16,625,000
  6. The Grinch / $8,458,030 / -28% / Weekend 7 / Universal
    1. 5-Day: $12,860,075
  7. Second Act / $6,480,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / STX Entertaiment
    1. 5-Day: $10,550,000
  8. Ralph Breaks the Internet / $4,702,425 / -49.3% / Weekend 5 / Disney
    1. 5-Day: $7,575,062
  9. Welcome to Marwen / $2,354,205 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Universal
    1. 5-Day: $4,151,395
  10. Mary, Queen of Scots / $2,277,820 / +225.5% / Weekend 3 / Focus Features
    1. 5-Day: $3,539,665

Notable Outsiders:

11. The Favourite / $2,085,123 / -20% / Weekend 5 / Fox Searchlight

18. Once Upon a Deadpool / $800,213 / (N/A) / -70.2% / Weekend 2 / Fox

25. If Beale Street Could Talk / $109,264 / -51.3% / Weekend 2 / Annapurna ; (Per-Theater-Average: $21,853)

30. Cold War / $54,353 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Amazon ; (Per-Theater-Average: $18,118)

(This post is going to function a little bit differently, as I am going to be sprinkling in predictions for how these films will perform this coming weekend. Fasten your seat belts, there is a lot to cover).

With Christmas officially done, and the New Year rapidly approaching, the box office is still very much in flux. Many films are scrambling to make as much money as possible before 2018 officially closes out since a good box office headline will make for some good will as we enter into “Hollywood’s Dumping Ground,” otherwise known as January. Yes, with the exception of two potentially promising titles, this coming January is looking to serve the same purpose as usual, acting as a space for major studios to unceremoniously dump any films that they know will likely be clunkers. As a result, the multitude of Christmas releases that we got this past weekend will have an entire month of runaway to potentially take off at the box office. Last year, the major winners of the New Year proved to be Sony’s Jumanji reboot as well as Fox’s The Greatest Showman, each powering their way to incredible box office heights thanks to great word-of-mouth and just being two great times at the movies (Greatest Showman also had a phenomenal soundtrack in its arsenal). One year later, I’m sure we’re all curious to see which new films don Jumanji‘s and Greatest Showman‘s mantels.

As for this past weekend’s top ten, in first place, we find what is potentially this year’s Jumanji in Aquaman, which opened to $67.4 million between December 21st and December 23rd before just making it past the century mark with a gross of $101 million through Christmas day. Overall, this performance is not bad, but it certainly is moderate. On one hand, this is technically within range of projections which, from the start, saw the film grossing between $65-$70 million over the 3-day frame, as well as breaking $100 million in the 5-day. Of course, those projections came on the tracking boards about a month and a half before the film was released. In that span of time there were several new developments, namely Warner Bros. release of the superhero flick in China two weeks ahead of its domestic release. A savvy gamble on the part of Warner, the film had already grossed over $400 million by the time it reached the US’ shores, thus amping up the anticipation. Warner also fueled the fire by holding screenings for Amazon Prime members (just as Sony did for Jumanji) which resulted in not only $3 million extra dollars going into opening weekend, but also very strong word of mouth across all social media platforms. In terms of positioning, Warner had set up this film to be the premiere theater going destination for this Christmas weekend.

So why is $67.4 million a bit middling? Well, with the social media buzz surrounding the film, combined with the overseas box office tsunami that was its Chinese (and overall international) gross, one would have expected the film to break $80 million in the 3-day. I certainly did, and several trades were also inching in that direction as Aquaman just seemed way too big to fail. Now, truly, it didn’t fail, but to see the film only open in the high $60 million‘s makes me wonder about the film’s chances for big success. Review-wise, the film also seems to be something of mixed bag. To Warner’s credit, the film is officially the second DCEU film to have a positive score on Rotten Tomatoes (it is currently sitting solidly at 65%, which, having seen the film, is pretty apt) but it is very much by the skin of its teeth. Overall the general consensus seems to be that the film’s emphasis on fun and humor, as well as its spectacle-driven story and set pieces, make for a great time at the movies even though the film is bogged down by an admittedly awkward and uneven script. Good old-fashioned fun has always made for good box office and gives Aquaman another solid comparison with Jumanji which was praised for its tone and lightheartedness. However, whereas the fun of Jumanji‘s spectacle-driven storytelling was heralded as a “great surprise”, in the case of Aquaman, “fun” seems almost like conciliatory praise amongst complaints about the bad aspects of the film. Potentially, any chance that Aquaman had at breaking $80 million in the 3-day frame (and potentially $120 million in the 5-day) may have been squandered by audiences simply finding the film “okay” rather than “good”. While the film’s “A-” Cinemascore seems to fly in the face of that, one cannot help but wonder.

The other factor (likely the main factor) is that of simple crowding and placement. As I repeated over and over in my last post, this Christmas was damn crowded, with five new features entering the top ten to do battle with three overall heavy hitters, and as you will see as this post continues, the results were bloody. Aquaman saw itself competing directly with Mary Poppins Returns (interesting as Poppins audience skewed heavily female and, as was pointed out by Deadline, Aquaman‘s reported female appeal was actually pretty strong; though when you have a shirtless Jason Momoa in your movie, it’s not all that surprising) and Bumblebee as well as fellow comic book adaptation Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which severely split up the available audience. On top of all that, it was Christmas weekend, a moviegoing frame that is notorious for causing films to underperform thanks to last minute shopping and Christmas parties. All things considered, Aquaman‘s opening is not bad, not by a long shot. In fact, the very fact that it won the weekend with a $44 million gap between its opening and that of Mary Poppins‘ in second place, is proof that Aquaman truly registered with audiences as an “event” for this Christmas moviegoing season.

As for what to expect going forward, one can expect the film to perform healthily. While it did not open nearly as large as it could’ve, Aquaman got a serious reprieve thanks to a very strong Christmas day haul of $22 million, the sixth highest Christmas day gross in history beneath the likes of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Rogue One, Avatar, and Sherlock Holmes, which, when combined with its Amazon Previews and put into the overall 5-day gross, brought Aquaman to a total stateside haul of $105 million and a worldwide gross over $500 million. This spells success in the film’s future, with many pundits predicting it could potentially be the first film in the DCEU to break $1 billion at the box office. This kind of buzz is clearly helping projections as almost every trade sees the film only dropping between 20-30% in its second weekend for a gross between $45-$55 million. This would push the film past $190 million in just under ten days of release, a fantastic upgrade from Justice League which is now lagging nearly $10 million behind Aquaman in at this same point in the release cycle. I personally see the film dropping around 25%, but either way, it is bound to break $200 million by next week; given that the film has already basically broken even on its $200 million budget, Warner Bros. can expect a pretty major profit on its hands with this film.

On to second and third place, where we find our first big battle of Christmas Weekend, that of Mary Poppins Returns and Bumblebee. Now, at the end of it all, Mary Poppins Returns did indeed win the mantle of second place over Bumblebee, but to end the story there would be just plain ignorant. The fact of the matter is that for most of the 3-day frame, Bumblebee was merely inches away from leapfrogging over Poppins. This was quite the surprising turn of events given several factors, notably the brand reputation of both properties. It’s no secret that Paramount’s Transformers franchise has been on the rocks critically for quite a while now. The financial aspects of this critical and audience dislike of the franchise finally manifested two summers ago with the financial meltdown that was The Last Knight and for that reason, it seemed as though the best that Bumblebee could hope for would be some solid reviews. Mary Poppins Returns, on the other hand, had the Disney brand on its side; with the impenetrable monolith that is Disney, which consistently manages to steamroll every other blockbuster in sight, how could they lose?

Fast forward to the end of the 3-day weekend, where Poppins has indeed managed to keep Bumblebee relegated to third place, but not for any lack of effort as Friday, in particular, seemed to signal a major upheaval as Bumblebee came in with a gross of $8.5 million to Poppins$6.7 million. While Poppins did win second place back with a Saturday gross of $8.6 million to Bumblebee‘s $7 million, the race was still extremely close up until Sunday where Poppins officially staked a claim in second place overall thank with an $8.1 million gross to Bumblebee‘s $6.1 million. In total, Mary Poppins Returns managed $23.5 million over the 3-day frame, a heavy underperformance against projections of a $28-$30 million weekend from earlier in the week that was made exponentially worse by the fact that Bumblebee, a product of the ridiculed Transformers franchise, managed to significantly challenge it (the film ended the 3-day weekend with a $21.6 million gross).

There is a multitude of factors that went into this situation, the foremost (in my humble opinion) being demographics. Bumblebee and Mary Poppins Returns were both designed to play to a family audience, however, the actual breakdowns of the audiences that went to go see each tells quite the story. First off, we have the age demographics where we see that while Bumblebee was more or less evenly split across the four major/base demographic quadrants (men under 25 making up 29% of the audience, men over 25 making up 28%, women under 25 making up 22%, and women over 25 making up 21%), Mary Poppins played to a significantly older crowd, with audiences over the age of 25 making up about 73% of the audience. Right here, we see that despite being billed as a family film, Poppins seems not to have been able to pique the interest of younger audiences. In retrospect, this really shouldn’t feel as surprising as it does, especially given that the original Mary Poppins came out in 1964, and as a result, has become a nostalgic fan favorite for many in that age group while younger audiences may not be nearly as fond of the film.

Then we have the racial breakdown, which ultimately adds another handicap to Mary Poppins Returns. Whereas Bumblebee had a (relatively) even breakdown with 48% of its audience being Caucasian, 24% being Hispanic, 12% African-American, and 11% Asian, Poppins played to an audience that was significantly Caucasian at 67%, while all of the other demos were under 20%. Now, admittedly, Poppins takes place in Edwardian London, so there is not a lot of opportunity for diversity in the film. However, seeing the demographic breakdown for Poppins is made quite surprising given the inclusion of Lin-Manuel Miranda in the cast, whom Disney clearly had hoped would give them that extra diversity bump, particularly with the Hispanic community. Miranda’s popularity is very far-reaching, not only given his smash success with Broadway hit Hamilton (which was praised for its inclusion of diversity amongst the cast) but also In the Heights, a musical focusing on the Hispanic community in New York which allowed him to break out, so it is surprising to see that the breakdown isn’t at least slightly more spread out given Miranda’s crucial part in the film, as well as his involvement in the musical numbers, one of which was even tailored to fit more into his Hamilton persona (you’ll know it when you see it). The fact is that Mary Poppins Returns simply played to an audience that was not nearly as broad as Bumblebee‘s, and while brand recognition allowed the film to pull ahead at the very end, the film will potentially struggle to maintain an audience going forward.

Speaking of going forward, Disney is clearly very keen on making sure that Mary Poppins Returns is a success by the end of its run. That said, the studio is gonna have to work pretty hard to make up the ground they lost with the film’s underwhelming opening. One cannot fault them for trying as they did pull out all the stops, netting major awards nominations for the film prior to its release as well as opening it on the Wednesday prior to Christmas Weekend. If you remember my last post, I went off a bit on Disney for forcing box office analysts to have to examine the film’s opening weekend within the context of its performance over a FULL WEEK through Christmas Day. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for Disney, there really isn’t much to say about its 7-day performance as Disney’s attempt to get out ahead of the competition really fizzled in the grand scheme of the box office. The film only netted $49.9 million over the course of a FULL WEEK of release (Wednesday, December 19th, through Christmas day), not even a straight $50 million and an absolute underperformance with regard to the original projections that Mary Poppins Returns would gross in the range of $70+ million over the course of that 7-day frame. This is not at all a good start for the film which carries a pretty lofty $130 million budget; so what is Disney to do? Well, of course, they are going to do what they do best: Spin, Spin, Spin like there is no tomorrow! As I mentioned at the top of the post, last year’s Christmas weekend frame saw the release of two surprise juggernauts at the box office that went on to beat every odd, Jumanji and The Greatest Showman, and with Aquaman already seemingly laying claim to the title of this year’s Jumanji, Disney’s PR department is doing everything in its power to make sure that the public sees Mary Poppins Returns as this year’s Greatest Showman (hell, even the first article from Deadline regarding Poppins‘ Wednesday debut made explicit comparison’s to the Hugh Jackman musical in order to get the ball rolling on that idea).

Last year, the circus musical had one of the poorer debuts in recent memory over the Christmas frame ($8.8 million on a budget of $84 million), but audiences took so well to the film that it powered its way to a $174.3 million domestic gross (nearly 20x its opening, indicating phenomenal word-of-mouth) and $434 million worldwide. Mary Poppins, at first glance, looks primed and ready to take over that mantle. However, there’s a bit of a snag in that plan, that being that The Greatest Showman, over the course of its run, really ended up being a four-quadrant picture, appealing to every single age/gender/race demographic equally thanks in no small part to its amazing soundtrack which topped the iTunes charts for weeks after it was released. As we have already discussed, Mary Poppins Returns has proven itself not to be a four-quadrant movie, appealing predominately to a specific group, older Caucasian women, with little appeal elsewhere. On top of that, as well liked as this new Poppins soundtrack is, it’s nowhere near the same level of popularity as that of The Greatest Showman. The Greatest Showman, surprisingly, also benefited (in a backward way) from having a low score on Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, despite critics having severely mixed feeling on the film (it holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 55%), audiences spoke loudly and clearly of just how much they loved the it, so much so that anyone who had not seen the movie likely found themselves confounded by the bizarrely bad reviews despite the amazing word-of-mouth that the film was receiving. This no doubt sparked a ton of curiosity amongst audiences and further propelled them to go see in theaters to decided how they felt about the film for themselves. Interestingly enough, given that specific set of circumstances, it is actually Bumblebee that seems primed to take the mantle of this year’s Greatest Showman, though not in the exact same way. Contrary to what everyone expected, Bumblebee actually has the best reviews of the top three movies this weekend with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93%, making it the first Transformers film to have not only a positive Rotten Tomatoes score but an exceedingly positive Rotten Tomatoes score at that. This could potentially generate more interest in the film as many audience members will potentially want to know if the film is actually that good; and with a stronger appeal toward multiple demographics than that of Mary Poppins Returns, particularly with younger people, families may be more inclined to check it out. Looking forward, Mary Poppins Returns is looking to grow its audience by +6% for a gross of $25 million this coming weekend given that it is typical for movie audiences to grow after Christmas, but Bumblebee is likely to put up another very strong fight this coming weekend as it tries to pull families further away from Poppins and Disney. Right now it is looking at a gross of $21 million.

In fourth through sixth place, we find the main holdovers of the weekend, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Mule, and The Grinch, respectively, which all went to battle with the incoming films over Christmas. Interestingly, these (for the most part) were the only films that didn’t really underperform all that much. This can be owed to having built-in audiences going into the weekend, which allowed both The Grinch and The Mule to stand relatively tall, though, unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Spider-Verse. Yes, despite incredible reviews, a fantastic response from audiences, and loads of awards buzz, the amazing animated film failed to weather the storm and dropped a whopping 53% in its second weekend for a gross of just $16.4 million. Spider-Verse had the benefit of appealing to a very wide variety of audiences. The popularity of the Spider-Man character and Miles Morales allowed for major appeal to the younger demographic, Miles’ mixed race heritage allowed for a diversified audience, and the well-designed animation and the sophisticated story also made for strong adult appeal as well. That said, the wide appeal of the film may have also been its ‘Achilles Heel’ as all of those demographics were shown to be drawn elsewhere this weekend, particularly toward the new releases. Aquaman had the undercurrents of a diversity play with its Native Hawaiian lead and a black actor playing one of the major villains (not to mention that it dominated the superhero film conversation through Christmas) while Bumblebee (and The Grinch for that matter) took much of the younger audience. Mary Poppins Returns took up much of the older female audience while older men may have also been drawn away by The Mule. Overall, the film didn’t stand much of a chance given its weaker than expected opening the previous weekend, and with its target audiences diluted by another fare, the drop was bound to be big. Thankfully (because this movie is fantastic and deserves an audience!!), the film does have a strong critical and audience reaction backing it, particularly denoted by its rare “A+” Cinemascore. Because of this, I have hope for its future as we head into the wasteland that is January. With the chokehold of Christmas no longer a factor, many films tend to see a boost this coming weekend, and while I am reluctant to predict a jump for Spider-Verse, pundits are predicting that it will remain stable with a weekend gross of around $16 million.

Meanwhile in fifth and sixth place, The Mule and The Grinch boasted the lowest drops in the top ten with 45% and 28%, respectively. As mentioned above, each of the films came with an audience already built in, so trying to cut into their box office hauls would’ve been like trying to cut stone with a pocket knife. The Grinch, in its seventh weekend no less, had already held fantastically throughout November and into December, and given its seasonally appropriate theming, a great hold on Christmas Weekend was all but guaranteed. The film did not uphold my prediction that it would eclipse the live-action Grinch starring Jim Carrey from 2000 in terms of its domestic gross once the Christmas Day grosses were factored in, but it did end up managing the feat thanks to its gross on Thursday, officially becoming the highest grossing Dr. Suess film of all time, both domestically and worldwide. The film also just cemented its place in Illumination Entertainment’s production history by outgrossing the first Despicable Me domestically as well. Now that Christmas is over, expect The Grinch to begin to fall more rapidly and quickly be booted out of the top ten. As for The Mule, Clint Eastwood’s appeal with the 50+ crowd allowed it to maneuver through Christmas Weekend with absolutely no competition, only dropping 45% for a gross of $9.5 million. It won’t be a major hit for Warner Bros., but it is certainly a good performer overall; one that will almost definitely gross another $9 million this coming weekend, if not more.

Outside the major players, we find our major clunkers. Second Act, being placed in the absolute worst possible environment for it to flourish, only managed a $6.5 million debut in seventh place. As expected, the film played very well with older women, which made up 72% of the audience, but as we discussed earlier, Mary Poppins Returns took up the bulk of that audience for itself. In true STX fashion, Second Act‘s financing deals saw 50% of its reported $16 million budget covered by foreign distribution sales, making its net budget actually around $8 million. Combined with around $30 million in P&A, Second Act‘s break-even point estimated to be about $40 million, which makes the film’s $10 million opening weekend (in the 5-day frame) read as a pretty solid debut (currently the film has grossed $19 million worldwide). This coming weekend, the film is expected to bump up its gross to between $7.4-$8 million, but more than likely, STX’s poor positioning of the film will result in it only breaking even in theaters and turning a profit (say it with me!) on streaming……………………….STX…………….Why do you do this to yourself?!?!?

Ralph Breaks the Internet took eighth place for Christmas, and currently stands at a total domestic gross of $169 million and $315 million worldwide. The film is gonna break-even, but we definitely won’t be seeing Ralph again anytime soon. Expect it to fall out of the top ten soon. Then there’s Welcome to Marwen, which even with a 5-day opening weekend frame, is looking to have lost, potentially, $60 million for Universal. With a budget of nearly $40 million, terrible reviews, and a 5-day opening gross of $4.1 million, Welcome to Marwen is dead on arrival, and that is that. It will promptly fall out of the top ten by weekend’s end. As for tenth place, we will end on a happy note as the costumed period drama, Mary, Queen of Scots, saw a healthy gross of $2.2 million ($4.7 million in the 5-day frame) as it expanded into wide release in 795 theaters. The film is unlikely to receive major Oscar contention, but it is certainly a nice feather in Focus Features’ cap that they can launch a film of this kind quite successfully in the Christmas frame, bravo!

Christmas day itself also saw the release of a few major films, namely Holmes and Watson, Vice, On the Basis of Sex, and Destroyer, the latter two being limited releases. Frankly, there is not enough information for me to comment much on the performances of the films until they make it through this weekend. I can say, however, that one should not expect Holmes & Watson to stick around long. The film opened to $6.4 million and had absolutely awful reviews (like 20 on Metacritic-kind of awful). Rumor has it that the Sony flick, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reily as the famous titular duo, had extremely unfavorable test screenings in post-production, so bad that Sony tried to sell the film to Netflix as they knew it would flop in theaters. Netflix obviously didn’t take the deal, which is saying something given that they took The Cloverfield Paradox off of Paramount’s hands last February, and if you saw that film, you know what I mean. Holmes & Watson is expected to be in a three-way battle for fifth, sixth, and seventh place with The Mule and Vice, but if my instincts tell me anything, it would be stupid not to bet on The Mule. Vice, on the other hand, is a wildcard, with six Golden Globe nominations and mixed reviews. We’ll just have to wait and see how everything shakes out, but don’t expect either Vice or Holmes & Watson to stick around long.

Lastly, we have the specialty market, where there was little activity. Cold War premiered unceremoniously to a per-theater-average of $18,118 in three theaters, but will likely be able to carry on into an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Feature thanks to its already significant awards track record (undeservedly so in my opinion). It should be noted, however, that If Beale Street Could Talk did manage a small, but notable win this Christmas. Over the weekend, the film added one theater, pulling in a per-theater-average of $21,853 in five theaters. No one has made any note of this, but it is worth noting that the film had the highest per-theater-average of Christmas weekend, greater than Cold War and Aquaman (Good Job!). The film will slowly be expanding its theater count as the weeks go on. Expect it to go fully wide around January 6th, after the Golden Globes.

Elsewhere, Destroyer and On the Basis of Sex debuted on Christmas day to little fanfare. On the Basis of Sex actually managed a surprisingly strong debut given its lack of awards momentum and the generally dismissive response audiences had to the trailer, roping in a $14,483 per-theater-average in a whopping 33 theaters. The film has no chance at any awards consideration, but given Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s popularity, perhaps the film could expand to become a surprise crowdpleaser. Destroyer, on the other hand, will have no such luck with a $10,246 per-theater-average in three theaters. Good thing Nicole Kidman also has Aquaman.

(Box Office Data taken from Box Office Mojo, Box Office Pro, and Deadline.com)

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