After two lackluster weeks, WONKA arrived this weekend as the only new wide release to tempt moviegoers with a pre-holiday trip to the movies. With a strong $39M over the last three days, it was the top contributor to the weekend total of $77.8M for all films.
So far, the box office in most weeks this year has outpaced the corresponding weeks from 2022. However, this week was sure to be a challenge given that AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER opened on the same weekend in 2022, grossing $134.1M in North America in its first three days, and went on to earn $684.1M domestic and $2.3B worldwide for its very successful and lengthy run.
These results for the AVATAR sequel fell slightly short of the 2009 original, which earned $785.2M domestic and $2.9B worldwide, without factoring in adjustments for ticket price increases over the 13 years.
Given such a formidable comp, the best anyone could have hoped for this season would be to have WONKA do well when it opened, which it did, followed by respectable performances by the remaining wide releases of the season.
In 1971, the original WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY established the notoriety of Willy Wonka in popular culture, played brilliantly by Gene Wilder. The movie was based on the 1964 children’s novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl. This year’s WONKA follows the early life of the famous chocolatier, as a prequel to the story in the 1971 movie.
The young, idealistic Wonka dreams of opening a candy shop in a town renowned for its chocolate, but soon finds out that the industry is run by a cartel of greedy chocolatiers.
Timothée Chalamet stars as young Wonka, in a performance that earned a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The ensemble cast features Hugh Grant, Olivia Coleman, Rowan Atkinson, and Jim Carter.
Paramount produced the 1971 movie on a budget of $3M, and it earned only $4M in its initial theatrical run in the U.S. and Canada. Its success was built from repeated showings on TV and, later, VHS and DVD releases for the home viewing market.
Sammy Davis Jr.‘s 1972 recording of the song The Candy Man also contributed by rising to #1 on the Billboard charts for two consecutive weeks. In 2014, the U.S. Library of Congress added WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY to its National Film Registry, in recognition of its “cultural, historic and aesthetic importance.”
Critics have been positive about WONKA, giving it an 84% score on Rotten Tomatoes, while audiences have ranked it even higher with a 91% score. It seems likely to perform well throughout the holidays and into next year, as the top choice of families for movies in theatres.
It has already grossed $43.2M in 37 global markets where it opened last week. Warner Bros. is likely to have the top two movies of the Christmas season, with WONKA opening this week and AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM arriving next Friday.
THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES finished in second place, with $5.8M. It has maintained itself nicely since its November 17th opening, with modest weekend drops of 35%, 51%, 34% and 38% this weekend. The total domestic gross for the sequel stands at $145.2M, making it the second highest-grossing film of Q4 after TAYLOR SWIFT: THE ERAS TOUR which has earned $179M since its October 13th opening.
THE BOY AND THE HERON finished in third with an additional $5.2M in its second weekend and a decline of 60% from last weekend’s surprising first-place finish. Its distributor GKIDS must be delighted with a ten-day total of $23.1M for its anime import feature. For its U.S. run, the Japanese original was dubbed into English using the voices of well-known Hollywood stars including Robert Pattinson, Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, and Mark Hamill.
This made the movie more accessible to U.S. audiences and increased its success at the box office. It has risen to the highest North American gross of any movie made by 82-year-old director Hayao Miyazaki, whose previous best was PONYO with $15.1M in its 2009 run. It has also surpassed Miyazaki’s SPIRITED AWAY, which grossed $10M in 2002 and received the 2003 Oscar as Best Animated Feature. This could be Miyazaki’s final movie, and if winds up being the case he will certainly be going out on top.
A second Japanese import is also having an impact on the domestic box office, with GODZILLA MINUS ONE taking fourth place this weekend with $4.9M, a drop of 43% from last weekend. The monster pic from Toho International has tallied a very healthy $34.3M in its first 17 days in North America.
Warner Bros is well positioned to benefit from MINUS ONE’s success, since the Hollywood studio is developing the next movie in the Godzilla series, GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE, which is scheduled to open next year on April 12th.
These two Japanese movies found a soft spot in the domestic release calendar and stepped in to provide entertainment for moviegoers who might otherwise have stayed home over the past three weeks.
Universal’s TROLLS BAND TOGETHER managed to hold onto fifth place by adding $4.0M this weekend to create a total domestic gross of $88.7M. The band has played on with week-to-week declines of -41%, -56%, -21%, and -34% over its five-week run.
The TROLLS have held up well in their competition with Disney’s WISH ($54.3M domestic) and is still playing at most of the theatres that began with the picture in its debut last month. Next weekend, Universal will hand the baton to MIGRATION, its next animated feature.
Last weekend we noted the early success of POOR THINGS in a limited nine-location opening. Earlier this week, the movie received six Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Director Motion Picture (Yorgos Lanthimos), Best Screenplay Motion Picture (Tony McNamara), Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or a Comedy (Emma Stone) and two nominations for Best Supporting Actor Motion Picture (Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo).
This praise is translating into some success at the box office, with the movie expanding this weekend to 82 locations where it grossed, $1.3M. The average of $15,549 per theatre is 50% higher than the $9,279 average for WONKA. POOR THINGS will expand again next weekend just before Christmas to reach its full complement of locations.
Where Are We as of 12/14
After 49 weeks, the 2023 year-to-date box office stands at 122% compared with the same point in 2022 and 82% of the numbers from 2019.