Film Discussion

US Box Office Report: 30/12/22 – 01/01/23

James Cameron once again makes the doubters his bitch, it was lonely this Xmas without you (at the cinema), and Other Box Office News.

On Christmas Day, it was made official.  Avatar: The Way of Water is a hit.  That designation was a mere formality, mind, since its weekday legs were already undeniable, dragging James Cameron’s latest right up to the cusp of $200 million domestic from a $134 million starting base before the holiday weekend properly kicked in.  And, if I’m being fully honest with myself, its opening weekend performance that I deemed as “the jury is still out” was already on the verge of being an out-and-out success anyway.  But if there were any doubters still crowing their nonsense bullshit into the TikTok-o-sphere, that Xmas weekend should have silenced them for good in between the shovelfuls of crow they were forced to eat.

A $63.3 million second weekend, equalling a 52.8% drop, doesn’t sound like hater-silencing material, admittedly.  But the context any naysayers would be conveniently forgetting in their spin attempts is that, oh yeah, the US went through a brutal winter cyclone which made going outside – and even staying inside, in many poorer cases – actively hazardous.  For Avatar to still score a $63 million weekend with that handicap, and score a better sophomore hold than most other blockbusters not dealing with extreme weather, is incontrovertible proof of a bona fide genuine certified hit, folks.

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But, if there are still any dissenting voices opposed to reality, the New Year’s weekend went and obliterated those too with a $63.4 million performance.  Yes, that’s an increase in its third weekend, as well as the fourth-best third-weekend performance of all-time.  Oh, and it’s also currently at $1.4 billion worldwide, about to blow past Tom Cruise in his Flying Machines for the title of 2022’s Biggest Film (Although It Needed a Little Bit of 2023 to Pull it Off).  Got a good feeling that, unless something catastrophic happens between now and mid-February – like, I dunno, M3GAN becoming a monster four-quadrant smash – we’re looking at the sixth $2 billion film, here.

Speaking of $2 billion, just wanna take a moment to bitch about that “James Cameron says it needs to make $2 billion to break even” off-hander becoming a codified fact of The Way of Water’s narrative.  Like… y’all know that’s bullshit, right?  I really shouldn’t need to go over this in detail when I already broke that thing down explicitly for you in the opening weekend BOR.  Cameron’s been shooting all the sequels simultaneously, most of the assets and tech for the other sequels were created from scratch here so sequel costs will be lower, everyone’s probably just lost track of how much Water specifically cost to make due to all that shared production pool, etc. etc.

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Christ, Edie Falco is one of Water’s stars and she, famously, thought the movie had already released and flopped cos her scenes were shot four years ago!  Guarantee you even James Cameron doesn’t know how much his movie actually cost and that $2 billion figure is relating to making the overall franchise investment profitable.  Since at least one of those movies is already near-enough in the can, I’d say Water is gonna achieve that on its own.  So, seriously, enough with the “$2 billion break-even” nonsense.  Y’all just exposing how little about this industry you actually know in the chase for online karma.

(Quick aside: my rant here was triggered by BBC News also repeating that not-exactly-a-statement in their story about Way of Water crossing $1 billion in 14 days.  You guys are supposed to be professionals!  You really telling me that you gutted your entertainment industry division so thoroughly there was no-one around to tell you how obviously bullshit that not-exactly-a-claim was?)

Avatar: The Way of Water; ©Disney.

Anyways, that’s enough out of Avatar for now.  Other films were, in fact, released over the holiday period and all bar one did varying degrees of dreadful.  The exception of the three, and notably the only one to actually increase its weekend taking over New Year’s, was the eleven-years-in-the-making Puss in Boots sequel, The Last Wish.  Perhaps because it’s been pretty hard for animated movies not featuring Minions throughout 2022, or perhaps because DreamWorks Animation didn’t wait long enough to release a sequel to their *scrolls down the Box Office table on their Wikipedia page* 20th highest-grossing film domestically (what with Jimmy C proving thirteen-year-long sequel waits are where the cash is at), Last Wish took a while to swim in gold coins.

Over Xmas, it opened to $12.4 million on the three-day and, because it was actually released early on a Wednesday, $18.5 million across five days.  Fortunately, though, the Xmas/New Year’s deadzone is a real boom period for kids’ films who rely on parents wanting to not have to pay attention to their terrorising tykes for two hours, so Puss has pulled off quite the comeback.  As mentioned, its sophomore weekend total is up, $16.3 million, and the weekday holds have been so strong as to take the flick to $60 million to date.


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The other two Xmas openers were not so lucky to experience a Christ-like resurrection story.  (Shit, wrong holiday for that gag to work.)  Just like I called from pretty much the second they started releasing marketing for the thing, and was certain of when they announced that ridiculous title change, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody hardly even got enough people into the building for it to get booed out of.  An “A” Cinemascore isn’t much comfort for a Wide-release film making just $4.7 million in its opening weekend and, whilst one might’ve hoped that nebulously positive audience reaction would translate to a sophomore weekend increase, an 11% drop to $4.2 million for the current weekend with a $14.8 million total so far.

Still, could always be worse.  You could be Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, which Film Twitter/YouTube/Reddit/etc. has collectively decided will be this Awards Season’s whipping boy – and also lightning rod for subliminally-misogynistic asides about Margot Robbie’s cache in Hollywood that I will not be linking here.  Unsurprisingly, because nuance is dead and nobody wants to entertain the notion that not every single film is designed to make lots of money, *inhales* a three-hour hard-R 1920s Hollywood ensemble piece full of orgies, violence, drugs and the industry generally being a shit-hole that polarised critics and Paramount did fuck-all to promote was not a recipe for the next Avatar. *exhales*

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Don’t get me wrong, though, Babylon did still do atrocious.  Even comparing it to Amsterdam, another polarising ensemble comedy featuring Margot Robbie in 2022 that bombed badly, this thing crashed out hard.  $3.6 million for Xmas weekend, down to $2.7 million for New Year’s, and only $10.1 million overall.  Not that it really had a chance at making that $80 million budget back to begin with, but it’s definitely not gonna get there now.

In case you’re wondering why I keep harping on about neither of those two movies improving over New Year’s and using that evidence of their being cooked, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a movie in its eighth weekend, leapfrogged over both to re-take third place with a 38% increase from Xmas.

This was meant to be where the State of the Box Office Report mini-essay went.  However, a “mini”-essay turned into an essay-ass essay whilst writing because I apparently cannot help myself at this point.  So, err, come back another day for that separate article.  Right now, it’s 10:32pm on a Monday and I just want to go to bed, so you get a commentary-free table for a Full List.  Happy New Year, by the way.

US Box Office Results: Friday 30th December 2022 – Sunday 1st January 2023

1] Avatar: The Way of Water $63,444,000 $421,561,914
2] Puss in Boots: The Last Wish $16,310,000 $60,717,330
3] Black Panther: Wakanda Forever $4,830,000 $437,975,653
4] Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody $4,250,000 $14,870,000
5] Babylon $2,730,000 $10,139,502
6] Violent Night $2,130,000 $47,520,295
7] The Whale $1,330,685 $5,777,882
8] The Fabelmans $1,140,000 $12,215,220
9] The Menu $1,070,000 $36,128,899
10] Strange World $538,000 $37,029,290

Dropped out: nothing!

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