Weekend Box Office Top 10 (Dec 21-Dec 23-Christmas Day): (Title / Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Actuals
- Aquaman / $52,140,000 / -23.5% / Weekend 2 / Warner Bros.
- Mary Poppins Returns / $28,353,117/ +19.1% / Weekend 2 / Disney
- Bumblebee / $20,900,000/ -5.3% / Weekend 2 / Paramount
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse / $18,820,000 / +11.2% / Weekend 3 / Sony (Columbia)
- The Mule / $12,165,000/ +24% / Weekend 3 / Warner Bros.
- Vice / $7,768,371 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Annapurna
- Holmes & Watson / $7,420,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony (Columbia)
- Second Act / $7,359,691 / +11.3% / Weekend 2 / STX Entertainment
- Ralph Breaks the Internet / $6,726,184 / +38.9% / Weekend 6 / Disney
- The Grinch / $4,165,000/ -50.3% / Weekend 8 / Universal
11. Mary, Queen of Scots / $2,655,000 / +16.6% / Weekend 4 / Focus Features
21. If Beale Street Could Talk / $766,224 / +595.2% / Weekend 3 / Annapurna ; (Per-Theater-Average: $11,788)
22. On the Basis of Sex / $685,000 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Focus Features ; (Per-Theater-Average: $20,758)
28. Stan & Ollie / $78,104 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Sony Pictures Classics ; (Per-Theater-Average: $15,621)
30. Destroyer / $55,347 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Annapurna ; (Per-Theater-Average: $18,449)
What a difference a week makes! After Christmas weekend left nearly every film in the top ten in tatters after a harsh battle for Christmas viewership, there have been some surprising bounce backs from several major blockbusters. The most notable, in my opinion, is that of Mary Poppins Returns, but credit is due across the board to the smaller films that managed to bump up their weekend grosses in the wake of New Year’s weekend. The specialty market also saw surprising gains as Mary, Queen of Scots continues to outperform almost every expectation and On the Basis of Sex begins to show more signs of sleeper hit potential. A real question mark remains over Annapurna and Vice, whose last-minute entry into the box office continues to make it an unpredictable wildcard.
In first place, we find Aquaman, which can definitely be considered a bonafide hit by now as it has officially surpassed $751 million dollars worldwide; not to mention that the film has a heck of a lot more runway to make even more money. Benefitting from a post-Christmas boost, the film grossed $52.1 million this past weekend (only a 22.6% drop!) which pushed its domestic gross past $189 million. Many pundits feel assured in their predictions that the film will past $200 million by the end of the day and $215 by New Year’s day, but more importantly, it seems almost inevitable now that Aquaman will become the first film in the DCEU to become a $1 billion grosser. It definitely helps that the film’s appeal is showing to be very broad. Notably, women over the age of 25 are turning out in droves to see Aquaman and giving the film its highest marks. Families are also making up about a third of the overall audience, proving to Warner Bros. that this lighter approach to DC filmmaking certainly has its benefits; something that must be particularly good to hear given that the next DCEU movie coming down the pipeline is that of Shazam! in April, which, by the looks of the trailers, leans much more heavily into humor and goofiness than any of the previous entries in the franchise (Wonder Woman 1984, rescheduled from November 2019 to December 2020, is also rumored to be going a bit more campy in tone as well). The only major question that this leaves is just how everything else in the DCEU is going to fit into this new tonal space that Warner is carving out. While audiences are certainly receptive (seemingly despite mixed critical reception), the first several movies in the franchise, which essentially laid the groundwork for future installments, don’t align with the less serious tone being set by these newer films. There are rumors of a soft reboot coming down the pipeline (specifically via Wonder Woman 1984‘s story), but the prospect is worrisome given that the franchise is just getting stabilized financially.
In second place, we find our biggest rebound of the weekend, Mary Poppins Returns. In my last post, I said that Disney would do everything in its power to brand Mary Poppins Returns as this year’s Greatest Showman, even if that meant loads of PR spinning. Clearly, what they are doing is working because Poppins saw a surprisingly solid jump this weekend, bumping up +20.5% for a gross of $28.3 million, and in turn, bringing its domestic haul to $99.2 million (it will likely pass the century mark by the end of the day). Now, to be clear, this is not Greatest Showman level success. The two films, despite both severely underperforming on their openings weekends (which both happened to run through Christmas) have a pretty different set of circumstances about the both of them. While Poppins definitively underperformed, Greatest Showman was in exponentially worse shape, opening to $8.8 million on an $84 million budget. Of course, the film then managed a historic +76% jump from its opening weekend to a second weekend gross of $15.5 million before then proceeding to hold phenomenally (not a single weekend-to-weekend drop greater than 20%) through the entirety of January and half of February; by which point the film had already grossed $150 million domestically and would still have nearly $25 million more to gross before it finished its domestic run.
So yes, Mary Poppins Returns is no Greatest Showman. Having opened to $23 million, it is coming from a place of significantly greater box office strength than the other, and its post-Christmas second weekend bump up is not nearly on the same level as its counterpart. However, Poppins deserves credit where credit is due. While the audience reception of the film is not nearly as fantastic (an understatement if there ever was one) as Greatest Showman‘s, it is certainly enthusiastic. The film’s “feel-good” nature and the throwback to an older, cozier style of filmmaking makes for an awfully good time at the movies, just the kind of sugar-coated experience a person would want as they ease into a new year. There’s also a curiosity factor in play surrounding Emily Blunt’s performance as the titular character given that she is taking on the role iconically played by Julie Andrews. Early word on the film from industry insiders labeled Blunt a Best Actress Oscar contender, and now that the film has been released, even its biggest detractors can’t find any fault in her performance. Blunt truly does do the character justice while adding her own facets (which, interestingly, pay homage the original characterization of Mary Poppins from P.L. Travers’ novels). Surely, many audience members are wondering for themselves if Blunt is really that good and are willing to pay to find out.
There is also the soundtrack in play, which, once again, The Greatest Showman showed can really put butts in seats. Once again, Mary Poppins Returns‘ soundtrack does not have nearly the same level of acclaim as that of Benj Pasek’s and Justin Paul’s work on Greatest Showman, but the fun tunes do play into the feel-good nature of the film, thereby making Mary Poppins Returns a prime theatergoing destination through New Year’s and potentially throughout January (Disney sure hopes that this is the case). So while Poppins is not going to put on the same show-stopping performance that Showman did, it is certainly carving out a nice spot for itself amongst the crowded market we find ourselves in. We’ll have to keep looking to see if the film gets any more weekend to weekend growth before it inevitably begins to drop, but it feels same to say that a solid domestic performance overall can be expected in the weeks ahead.
The only performance this weekend that seems to have fallen short is that of Bumblebee in third place. I nearly used the word “disappointing” describe its weekend box office but I feel that such a descriptor might be a bit unfair. This is only the film’s second weekend and it has nearly the entire month of January to pull ahead. However, I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the film given the promise it showed over Christmas as well as just how much is at stake for the Transformers franchise as a whole. As opposed to the majority of the top ten, the film actually fell from weekend to weekend. The film was down 3.5% for a gross of $20.5 million, bringing the domestic haul to $67.1 million and the worldwide gross to $157.1 million. Once again, not bad, but in context, things could be better.
I had predicted that the film would see a bump during this weekend much like all the films. However, the resulting drop instead confirms that Transformers as a film franchise still has a lot of rehabilitation to do. The Michael Bay films prior to this one never received strong critical reception and saw their audience reception drop with every new entry. Given that, Bumblebee was handicapped from the start as people were unlikely to immediately jump at the opportunity to see it theaters. The franchise has also been plagued with complains about crude sexual humor, which likely also scared away families, which were already being pulled away by both Aquaman and Mary Poppins. It feels odd to say that given that the previous weekend proved to the film to be pretty popular with younger audiences, but given that a very large amount of the media traffic for the film was driven by fans of the origin series, it is possible that the film’s appeal might be a bit more niche than originally expected. Once again, Bumblebee has time to grow its audience, but this is a notable set back. Bumblebee should, at moment, be aiming at grossing $100 million in the states (and its well on its way) before then setting its sights on topping The Last Knight‘s domestic gross of $130 million. The trades have also been quick to point out that the franchise typically relies on the Chinese box office to truly amp up its grosses. If the film can pass the century mark soon, it will be a good position to do well internationally (also, if the trades are defending Bumblebee, clearly the media is on its side, which is a plus).
Fourth place saw some amazing news as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse got a bump up from $16 million last weekend to $18.8 million. The Christmas boost definitely helped Spider-Verse regain the momentum in lost last weekend, the only question is as to whether it can keep this up. No matter what, however, Spider-Verse can rest easy at the moment given that this weekend did push the film past $100 million at the domestic box office. It’s domestic haul currently sits at $104.1 million, which combines with a solid international gross of $109.6 million for an overall worldwide haul of $213.7 million. The hope at the end of last weekend was that, despite a significant second-weekend drop, the film’s “A+” Cinemascore would allow it to have strong legs through January, and for that reason, this boost seems quite promising. The only foreseeable challenger to Spider-Verse looks to be Bumblebee, though if Spider-Verse can hold well, the film could leapfrog over the Paramount feature quite easily. I would be curious to see if the Golden Globes are able to sway audiences at all, but expect a strong advertising push next weekend as the Globes Ceremony will be airing on January 6th.
Outside of the majors, my predictions were correct that The Mule would win out over Holmes & Watson as well as Vice. What I did not expect was for the audience seeing The Mule to grow nearly as much as it, expanding by 28.1% for a gross of $12.1 million. Holmes & Watson performed as expected, however, underperforming and failing to top the trio. As mentioned previously, Sony tried to jettison the film to Netflix in order to lessen the losses they knew they were going to take given the film’s incredibly bad test screenings. Netflix passed, however, and the resulting exit polls are just as bad as Sony was anticipating with a “D+” Cinemascore and a 30% “definite recommend” on PosTrak. With only a $7.4 million opening, the $42 million budgeted feature is headed for a flop. Thank God that Sony has had a great year up until now.
Vice, on the other hand, is very hard to pin down. On one hand, the film is reportedly budgeted at $60 million, so a $7.7 million opening is pretty damn bad. Released by Annapurna, the fledgling studio has had quite the tough year, so much so that they have jettisoned two projects that were already casting to different studios, those being the untitled Roger Ailes film starring John Lithgow as Ailes and Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, as well Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman, which is now set up at Lionsgate, and The Hustlers at Scores starring Jennifer Lopez (and potentially Constance Wu?) which landed at STX (no doubt on the heels of Lopez’s Second Act testing well in screenings). Many have noticed this tread of high budget projects coming from Annapurna which then fail to produce much of a profit (if any) and have questioned whether the studio will soon file for bankruptcy. It is for that reason that Vice‘s opening looking very alarming, at the outset.
If one digs a bit deeper, however, you can see that the film is showing signs of strength. Exit polling for the film sees it doing quite well, with 3 1/2 stars from audiences via PosTrak and the film over-indexing in several cities along the coast. The subject matter of the film seems to be inspiring some charged curiosity which is fueled in particular by comparisons to the Trump administration (something I assume Annapurna was fully aware of when packaging the film). Combined with the fact that Vice has also managed to rack up $17 million so far since Christmas, suddenly, its opening weekend seems solid. Not to be forgotten is the fact that Vice also managed to garner six Golden Globe nominations prior to its release. While the validity of these nominations has been called into question by many, especially given that the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score is currently sitting at 64%, one should never underestimate the power of being able to call a film “an awards contender” (I didn’t see anyone make the same complaints about Mary Poppins Returns nominations though). Christian Bale’s performance as Dick Cheney in the film is a particularly strong driving factor for many in seeing the film as it has garnered very strong (and more believably valid) awards buzz, with some even saying that he is a Best Actor frontrunner. Annapurna has always managed pull in a few major nominations on Oscar morning and given that their film’s financial future may be pretty dependent on it winning, expect the film’s campaign to ramp up heavily in the coming week.
The rest of the top ten saw health performance across the board. Second Act grew by +13.4% for a gross of $7.3 million in eighth place. With a domestic total of $21.9 million so far, the film is making surprisingly swift progress toward its break-even point of $40 million, and I am intrigued to if it can make it past that point into a substantial profit. Ralph Breaks the Internet also saw a boost, getting a much bigger than expected final hurrah as it grew 43% in ninth place for a gross of $6.7 million. Finally, The Grinch rounded out the top ten with the biggest drop in its whole eight week run up to this point, 50.8%. Of course, this was completely expected given that Christmas is over and done with so interest in the movie will start to heavily wane. No matter though, as with a gross of $469 million worldwide on a budget of $75 million, The Grinch has certainly proven its worth as a massive Christmas money maker for Universal and Illumination.
Outside the top ten, Mary, Queen of Scots deserves a very big shout out for managing to carve a space for itself in such a busy marketplace over this past month. Jumping into the fray in early December, the film surprised with a per-theater-average of $48k. Capitalizing on this surprise momentum, Focus Features expanded the film’s theater count more rapidly than is usual for a period drama and has definitely been reaping the rewards as the film not only managed to get into the top ten over Christmas weekend, but is also currently sitting at a total gross of $9 million domestic in just its fourth weekend. That may not seem like a big deal, but consider that Mary‘s immediate rival in this genre space, The Favourite, had only grossed $6.7 million domestically at that same point in its release cycle. Now, The Favourite (the bigger awards contender I might add) is sitting in twelfth place while Mary, Queen of Scots is knocking on the door of the top ten in eleventh place (not to mention that The Favourite has never reached the top ten). One could argue that Mary, Queen of Scots had the benefit of a Christmas weekend bump, but that would just be a compliment to Focus Features strong positioning of the film.
Focus Features also deserves another shout of for doing a pretty good job launching their Ruth Bader Ginsberg biopic On the Basis of Sex, which took the top per-theater-average of the weekend with $20,758 per theater, a feat that is magnified by the fact that the film is currently playing in 33 theaters as opposed to four or five where that kind of average would be expected. On the Basis of Sex was originally positioned as an awards contender and comeback vehicle for director Mimi Leder after a nine-year absence from film. While lukewarm reviews derailed the films awards chances, Leder should take heart in the fact that the film is still doing surprisingly well, and could potentially bring her slightly back into the directing fold. Focus also deserves credit for banking on the popularity of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, especially following this past summer were her documentary, RBG, surprised as a considerable success at the box office.
Elsewhere, other awards contenders debuted, most notably Destroyer (which opened on Christmas day and just had its first official weekend) and Stan & Ollie, the Laurel and Hardy biopic for which John C. Reily received a Golden Globe nomination, but neither film made much of an impression. The last noteworthy film this weekend was that of If Beale Street Could Talk which is continuing to do solid, if not spectacular, business with a per-theater-average of $11,788 in 66 theaters. Another Annapurna feature, this film definitely needs to win some Golden Globes next weekend if it hopes to make a profit.
(Box office data from Box Office Mojo and Deadline)