As we say a fond goodbye to 2023 and its surprisingly strong performance, exhibitors are bracing for a slow January in comparison to the first month of 2023. Last year, Universal started with a highly successful 1/6 release of M3GAN, which grossed $30.4M domestic in its opening three days and produced a total of $95.2M for its entire run.
That same weekend, Sony’s A MAN CALLED OTTO expanded from four to 637 locations, eventually reaching 3,802 theatres on 1/13. That weekend’s box office was also boosted by two strong holdovers that had opened in December 2022. James Cameron’s AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER finished #1 with $45.8M in its fourth weekend and PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH added $13.5M in its third weekend.
The total gross for all films in the first weekend of 2023 was $106.9M compared to this year’s weekend total of $87.3M. Next Friday, three new wide releases will arrive for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend: MEAN GIRLS, THE BEEKEEPER, and THE BOOK OF CLARENCE. After that, only one new wide release will appear in January, I.S.S. which opens on 1/19.
Warner Bros.’ WONKA finished in first place again in its fourth weekend with a gross of $14.3M, a decline of 36% from last weekend. The Christmas champ continues to draw moviegoers with a cumulative gross of $164.7M domestic and more than $400M worldwide.
Looking ahead to a relatively dry January, continued results from WONKA will be important to the overall number for the month. It seems likely that WONKA will remain among the top five performers through the end of the month.
Universal was first into the pool again with a new release in the new year, NIGHT SWIM. This Blumhouse production was the only significant new film of the weekend and took second place with a debut of $12M. These results did not measure the success Universal and Blumhouse achieved last year with M3GAN.
NIGHT SWIM is a feature-length adaptation of an acclaimed 2014 short film with the same title. It stars Wyatt Russell and Golden Globe nominee Kerry Condon as they face the menace of a less-than-friendly backyard swimming pool. Blumhouse has an impressive track record of profitable films, including THE PURGE (2013), GET OUT (2017), HALLOWEEN (2018), and last year’s M3GAN and FIVE NIGHT’S AT FREDDY’S.
Their steady and successful approach consists of producing movies on a relatively low budget, often with lesser-known talent, and focusing exclusively on the horror genre and fan base. By earning $12M in its opening three days, NIGHT SWIM has already grossed almost as much as the $15M it cost to make.
Unfortunately, the creepy tale has not been well received with critics and audiences giving it a shockingly low 27% and 44% score respectively on Rotten Tomatoes. Compare this to M3GAN’S thrilling 93% and 78% scores. The brilliance of the Blumhouse model is that there is minimal downside even if the movie is not a big success in theatres
Marvel’s AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM came in third place with a gross of $10.6M, dropping 42% from last weekend. It’s unprecedented to see a topline superhero movie open on Christmas weekend only to wind up in third place on the first weekend in January.
After three new pictures arrive next weekend, AQUAMAN will lose a number of its locations and most likely be pushed out of the top five. Remember that the original AQUAMAN opened on the same pre-Christmas weekend in 2018 and performed well through March 2019. This is another marker of how far superhero franchises have fallen.
Universal’s MIGRATION hovered in fourth place with a weekend gross of $10.3M, a drop of 40% from last weekend. The ducks have earned $77.8M in the past 17 days and should have the family animated audience all to themselves until KUNG FU PANDA 4 appears on March 8th.
This trajectory tracks the success of last year’s PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH which had earned a similar $77.1M after 17 days and wound up with a domestic total of $186.1M.
Sony’s romantic comedy ANYONE BUT YOU finished in fifth place with $9.5M in its third weekend, an increase of 9% from last weekend. This movie has become the surprise hit of the holiday season, holding up better than most had expected with a 17-day total of $43.7M.
This is almost as much as TICKET TO PARADISE which earned $46.7M domestic in its first 17 days in 2022 and $68.2M overall. That movie had a much higher profile with stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts and is the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the post-pandemic era.
Where Are We as of 1/4
The 2023 film year is now in the books, with its total box office coming in at 121% compared with 2022 and 79% compared with 2019.