Weekend Box Office At $38M, Near 2022 Low Before ‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’ Soaks Up All The Air – Sunday Update

by Joel Richards

Sunday write-thru: What happens when there’s no wide theatrical releases and it’s the holiday season as we emerge from the pandemic? Why, you get the second-lowest box office weekend of the year at an estimated $38.3M, a notch above the Jan. 28-30 frame when we reached the bottom of the well for 2022 with all movies at $34.87M.

Top pic this weekend is, of course, the fifth go-around of Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which made $11.1M. On Friday, the Ryan Coogler movie crossed the four century mark with a running cume of $401.55M. Through today, Wakanda is pacing 5% ahead of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness at the same point in time. Total cume now stands at $409.8M. The movie will best Multiverse‘s domestic run of $411.3M by next weekend.

Also, with 20th Century Studios/Disney’s Avatar: The Way of Water set to conquer all business next weekend with a potential $200M domestic start, nobody wants to waste the marketing dollars to play in front of that, especially when moviegoing doesn’t pick up until after Christmas, when there’s zero holiday distractions and kids go on break.

A year ago, you’ll remember Disney made the mistake of opening Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story on the second weekend of December ahead of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and no one came, resulting in a box office take at $10.5M over 3-days. No studio was willing to risk a wide release this weekend after seeing how that went down.

However, in pre-pandemic times, family films playing ahead of year-end titans have done great on the second weekend of December, i.e. Jumanji: The Next Level, which opened to $59M ahead of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘s $177.3M start in December 2019, and 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, which opened to $35.3M ahead of Warner Bros/DC’s Aquaman. Solid family titles in the recent pre-Covid era have proved to break through. It remains to be seen when that will happen again. Next year, there are no wide releases booked by the majors on Dec. 1 or Dec. 8. And that’s before Warner Bros/DC’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom on Christmas.

This weekend, on the smaller side: A moderate expansion of Focus Features’ Michael Showalter- directed Spoiler Alert, based on the Michael Ausiello tome made $700K after a $230K Friday at 783 theaters (+777). That’s good enough to get the movie into the top 10. Good PostTrak scores with 91% and Rotten Tomatoes audience at 93% from those who showed up, that being 58% guys, 45% between 18-34,  66% Caucasian, 15% Latino and Hispanic, 2% Black, 17% Asian/other. Through the pic’s second weekend, its cume is $803K.

THE WHALE, Brendan Fraser, 2022. © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

Despite no noise on the wide side, A24’s Darren Aronofsky-directed Brendan Fraser drama The Whale officially posted the best theater average of 2022, unseating the studio’s Everything Everywhere All at Once ($50K per theater) with $60k, or $360K over three days at six NYC and LA theaters as of Sunday AM. This movie was on fire this weekend boosted by Aronofsky doing sell out QAs in NYC and Fraser in LA. What’s working here? This pic despite its depressing tale of an obese man has an uplifting ending, and the 25-34 crowd, who repped over half of all ticketbuyers enjoys seeing this redemptive tale which mirrors the comeback narrative of Fraser’s career in this stunning performance. That’s what sets this movie apart from all the darker prestige dramas on the marquee now. The ’90s star has much love. That provides some hope for prestige Oscar-bait dramas. Though only 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, Fraser has been buzzed to have a lock on Best Actor after the pic’s fall film festival tour. The Whale was the tale in all of its theaters where it played including New York’s Lincoln Square, Angelika, Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn, and LA’s Burbank, Grove and Century City — meaning it was No. 1. Jill Goldsmith has more here.

EMPIRE OF LIGHT, Olivia Colman, 2022. © Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Searchlight’s Empire of Light, directed by Sam Mendes and based on the life of the Oscar- winner’s mother, was panned by critics at 47% Rotten, and didn’t do so well. Booked in 110 sites, the movie flickered $67K on Friday for what is shaping up to be a $160K opening as of Sunday AM.

Weekend top 10:

1.) Wakanda Forever Dis 3,725 (-130) theaters, Fri $2.8M (-37%), Sat $5.1M Sun $3.1M 3 day $11.1M (-37%), Total $409.8M/Wk 5

2.) Violent Night Uni 3,723 theaters (+41), Fri $2.4M (-50%) Sat $3.89M Sun $2.39M 3-day $8.7M (-40%), Total $26.7M/Wk 2

3.) Strange World Dis 3,560 (-614) theaters, Fri $787K (-28%) Sat $1.8M Sun $1M 3-day $3.6M (-29%)Total $30.4M /Wk 3

Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

4.) The Menu Sea 2,710 (-100) theaters Fri $825K (-21%) Sat $1.2M Sun $675K 3-day $2.7M (-21%) Total $29M/Wk 4 The Searchlight title has beat the domestic running total of the distrib’s 2019 genre title Ready or Not ($28.7M) as well as that of the trippy Ari Aster movie that summer, Midsommar ($27.4M). Menu is working with its core 18-34 demo, even though it lives in a lackluster marketplace.

5.) Devotion Sony 3,458 theaters (+53) Fri $600K Sat $885K Sun $515K 3-day $2M (-26%) Total $16.9M/Wk 3

6.) Black Adam (WB) 2,143 (-88) theaters Fri $330K, Sat $630K, Sun $380K 3-day $1.34M (-14%) Total $166.8M/Wk 8

7.) The Fabelmans (Uni) 973 (+355) theaters Fri $340K Sat $510K Sun $330K 3-day $1.18M (-7%) Total $7.3M/Wk 5

8.) Met Opera: The Hours (Fath) 826 theaters Sat B.O. is $791K/Wk 1 This Fathom Events title sneaked in and boxed Uni’s eighth weekend of Ticket to Paradise out of the top 10, that movie now at $67.5M running total. Hours reps soprano Renée Fleming return to the Met in the world-premiere production of Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Kevin Puts’s work here. Soprano Kelli O’Hara and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato join Fleming as the opera’s trio of heroines. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.

9.) I Heard the Bells (Fath) 973 theaters (+445) Fri $233K Sat $295K Sun $221,8K 3-day $750,7K, Total $4.07M/Wk 2

10.) Spoiler Alert (Uni) 783 (+777) theatres Fri $250K Sat $240K Sun $210K 3-day $700K (+744%), Total $803K/Wk 2