Christmas treasury looks more like coal than a gift

Although the results are bleak overall, the real test is coming in the next 11 days, starting Sunday. It can only improve.

Yes, the weather outside was terrible in much of the US and Canada in the days leading up to Christmas. Luckily, it’s Christmas Day when gross receipts typically rise and most areas return to more normal December temperatures. Unfortunately, even if the box office picks up again, the packages delivered to theaters are more coal than diamonds.

Undoubtedly, the challenging weather reduced theater-goers by more than a little, particularly on Friday. But the good news is that when Christmas falls on a Sunday, that day is the best of the three-day weekend. And then Bank Holiday Monday is even more significant. It would have been more catastrophic if the cold front had moved in two days later.

Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney) was the relative bright spot of all titles. The three-day estimate is $56 million, down 58 percent from the open and bringing the 10-day gross to $253,682,000. Globally, the total reached $855 million. The studio expects $80 million over four days.

The domestic reservations include the weather, but also, as from the beginning, the time required for a 192-minute film. That’s three and a half hours at the theater plus travel. That’s a big commitment, especially when travel is more demanding and vacation activities are in conflict. This is a key reason why what happens from tomorrow and the rest of the run will likely be comparatively better than other pre-Christmas franchise releases.

Still, Disney’s estimate that Sunday’s gross will be just 10 percent above Friday’s gross falls short of the Christmas Day increase that other studios are anticipating for their films. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, Rogue One (a bigger opening weekend than James Cameron’s film) fell 59 percent. So the reality is that without the weather factor, the decline for The Way of Water would likely have been 50 percent or less. And with a better than expected Sunday, things could get tighter.

Reality check: In its first 10 days, The Way of Water’s domestic gross is over $200 million below what Spider-Man: No Way Home grossed for the same time, which was 58 percent of its final $805 million dollars equaled . This film was almost certainly more frontline than The Way of Water, but if its performance has the same upfront ratio, it would only fetch $440 million. The industry consensus prior to this weekend was closer to a $525-$550 million result. But the hoped-for upswing must start tomorrow at the latest.

Only three other studio titles opened for the holidays. By far the best was Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) at #2 with $17,453,000 over five days. During the same period last year, Sing 2 grossed $39 million. As with other titles, the weather hurt here too.

I want to dance with someone

“Whitney Houston: I want to dance with someone”


Sony’s “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with You” only managed $5,300,000 for #3. Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon” did worse at $3,500,000. For both, any rebound ahead will only reduce damage.

With a wider reach than usual, the three-day total appears to be around $87 million. That’s awful. Last year (with the benefit of Saturday Christmas) it was $144 million. In 2019, when ticket prices were 20 percent lower, it was $248 million. That’s just 35 percent as much as last weekend before COVID at the same time, reducing our running four-week comparison to 46 percent.

“Violent Night” (Universal) topped the other holdovers at No. 5 with a 38 percent drop and is holding up well as it dominates at-home VOD action. The best pick, albeit still at a paltry $550,000 gross with additional theaters, was #9 The Fabelmans (Universal), also on PVOD.

The Whale (A24) expanded to 603 theaters on Wednesday, with the weekend finishing at #7 with an estimated $924,000. Like all specialized titles, it’s been influenced not only by the weather (although older viewers are even more reluctant to brave the elements), but also by the general tendency to postpone cinema-going until the holidays.



“Corsage” (IFC) was the surprisingly best opener among the new platform releases. It grossed $32,000 at two locations in New York. The Austrian film averaged $16,000 per cinema, excellent overall and even more for a non-English title. Los Angeles will be added on Friday, with 200 theaters nationwide the following week.

Women Talking (United Artists) opened eight theaters in five cities for an initial estimated total of $40,000 for three days. Sony Pictures Classics estimated $21,000 for three New York/Los Angeles dates. For both films, their performance during the rest of the vacation will be a better benchmark.

The Top 10 (3-day estimates)

1. Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney) week 2; Last weekend #1

$56,000,000 (-58%) in 4,202 (unchanged) theaters; PTA (average per theater): $13,327; Cumulative: $253,682,000

2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritical: 75; European daylight saving time. Budget: $90 million

$11,350,000 in 4,099 theaters; PTA: $2,769; Cumulative: $17,453,000

3. Whitney Houston: I want to dance with someone (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: N/A Metacritic: 55; European daylight saving time. Budget: $45 million

$5,300,000 in 3,625 theaters; PTA: $1,462; Cumulative: $5,300,000

4. Babylon (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritical: 59; European daylight saving time. Budget: $80 million

$3,500,000 in 3,343 theaters; PTA: $1,047; Cumulative: $3,500,000

5. Violent Night (Universal) Week 4; Last Weekend #3; also on PVOD

$3,140,000 (-38%) in 2,562 (-966) theaters; PTA: $1,226; Cumulative: $41,608,000

6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney) week 7; Last weekend #2

$3,022,000 (-43%) in 2,250 (-1,130) theaters; PTA: $1,343; Cumulative: $425,677,000

7. The Whale (A24) week 3; Last weekend #15

$925,000 (+541%) in 603 (+597) theaters; PTA: $1,533; Cumulative: $2,943,000

8. The menu (searchlight) week 6; Last weekend #5

$617,000 (-62%) in 840 (-1,035) theaters; Price per person: $735; Cumulative: $33,797,000

9. The Fabelmans (Universal) Week 6; Last Weekend #7; also on PVOD

$550,000 (-26%) in 1,122 (+167) theaters; Price per person: $490; Cumulative: $9,754,000

10. Strange World (Disney) Week 5; Last Weekend #4; also on PVOD and Disney+

$410,000 (-81%) in 1,390 (-1,480) theaters; Price per person: $295; Cumulative: $35,599,000

Specialized Titles

Movies (limited releases, extensions of limited releases, and price-sensitive releases) are listed by release week, starting with those opening that week; After the first two weeks, only movies grossing over $5,000 will be tracked.

women speak (United Artists) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, New York 2022

European daylight saving time. $40,000 in 8 theaters; Estimated PTA: $5,000

Life (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Sundance, Telluride, Toronto 2022

$21,233 in 3 theaters; PTA: $7,078

corsage (IFC) NEW – Metacritical: 82; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2022

$32,000 in theaters; PTA: $16,000

The whale (A24) Week 3

$924,329 in 603 (+597) theaters; PTA: $1,532; Cumulative: $(est.) 2,433,000

realm of light (Searchlight) Week 3

$71,000 in 350 (-86) theaters; PTA: $203; Cumulative: $677,584

The Banshees by Inisherin (searchlight) week 11; also on HBO Max and PVOD

$36,000 in 80 (-85) theaters; Cumulative: $8,891,000

TAR (Focus) Week 12; also on PVOD

$15,000 in 36 (-27) theaters; Cumulative: $5,504,000

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Lindsay Lowe

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