Weekend Box Office: 'Aquaman' Eyes $68M; 'Bumblebee,' 'Mary Poppins' Battle for No. 2

Aquaman Still 13 - Publicity - H 2018
<p>Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in <em>Aquaman</em></p>   |   Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Elsewhere, the Robert Zemeckis dramedy 'Welcome to Marwen' bombs.

Warner Bros.' Aquaman easily came in No. 1 Friday with $28 million from 4,125 theaters for a projected weekend debut of $68 million or more, one of the best showings ever for the year-end holiday corridor outside of the Star Wars films.

Overseas, the superhero pic has already amassed $350.7 million, including $214.3 million from China, where it launched two weeks ago.

In North America, Christmas is unlike any other time of year at the box office. The weekend before the holiday can be somewhat slow as consumers focus on holiday preparations (the big exception, of course, are the Star Wars movies, which did massive business during pre-Christmas). Traffic at the multiplex will pick up in earnest on the afternoon of Dec. 25, and stay at peak levels through New Year.

Aquaman is directed by James Wan and stars Jason Momoa in the titular role. Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson and Dolph Lundgren co-star. Males made up 60 percent of Friday ticket buyers, while a hearty 46 percent of the audience was under 25, according to Comscore.

As expected, the tentpole is coming in well ahead of Disney and director Rob Marshall's musical, Mary Poppins Returns, and Paramount's Bumblebee, helmed by Travis Knight. As fate would have it, all three films earned an A- CinemaScore from audiences.

Mary Poppins Returns took flight on Wednesday in North America and is eyeing a five-day debut of $30 million or more. Musicals don't tend to sport big openings, but can enjoy an especially long run, such as The Greatest Showman last year.

The follow-up to the classic 1964 film stars Emily Blunt as the iconic nanny, alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emily Mortimer, Ben Whishaw and Angela Lansbury. Dick Van Dyke, who starred opposite Julie Andrews in the original pic, makes a cameo appearance. Nearly 20 percent of Friday's audience was under the age of 17, while females made up more than 60 percent of ticket buyers.

For the weekend itself, Mary Poppins is in a close race with Bumblebee for No. 2. Most rival studios show Bumblebee coming in slightly ahead, but Saturday will be the determining factor.

Paramount's Bumblebee, opening to $8.5 million from 3,550 theaters on Friday to place second, is projected to post a weekend opening in the $22 million-$24 million range. The Transformers spinoff is an origin story directed by Knight and stars Hailee Steinfeld. The film boasts the best Rotten Tomatoes score — 94 percent — of any film opening nationwide this weekend, helping to explain why it is coming in on the higher end of expectations.

Bumblebee skewed male, or 57 percent. It played older than either Aquaman or Mary Poppins, with nearly 90 percent of ticket buyers over the age of 25.

Also launching this weekend are STXfilms' Second Act, a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez, and Universal's Welcome to Marwen, which is directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Steve Carell.

Second Act is looking at a seventh-place finish with $7 million-$7.5 million from 2,602 cinemas, including a Friday gross of $2. 5 million million. The film, costing $16 million to make, has been snubbed by many critics, but fared somewhat better with audiences, who gave the film a B+ CinemaScore.

Welcome to Marwen is an out-and-out dud after getting skewered by critics and earning a B- CinemaScore. It earned less than $1 million on Friday from 1,911 locations for a projected debut of $2.7 million.

Dec. 21, 12 p.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Dec. 22,  6:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.