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The bomb cyclone has brought freezing temperatures, high winds, snow and ice to a wide swath of the country. Traditionally, the Christmas corridor is one of the most lucrative times of the year for Hollywood studios and theater owners. This year is an exception, between a less crowded marquee, Storm Elliott and ongoing concerns about COVID-19, the flu and the RSV virus. Another bummer: It’s never great when Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday and Christmas on a Sunday. Put another way, studios are already looking to next week to make up for lost ground.
In a bummer for the year-end box office, Christmas weekend revenue could be down as much as 50 percent from 2019 — before the pandemic struck — and, more worrisome, 33 percent from 2021. And overall revenue for Christmas Day was an estimated $44 million, the worst showing in at least two decades, excluding 2020, according to Comscore. Last year, for example, revenue for Dec. 25 was $58.1 million, as a way of comparison.
Disney and 20th Century’s Avatar 2 will easily win the four-day holiday weekend in North America with an estimated Friday to Monday gross of at least $90 million (that’s up from Sunday’s estimate of $82 million) from 4,202 theaters. The big-budget tentpole finished Sunday with a domestic total of $253.7 million and $855.4 million globally. By the end of Monday, the worldwide number will near or cross $900 million worldwide after two weeks in release. Overseas, The Way of Water collected a sizable $168.6 million over Christmas weekend (three days) for a foreign total through Sunday of $601.7 million, including more than $100 million from China.
DreamWorks Animation and Universal’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which opened midweek and received an A CinemaScore, will have no trouble coming in No. 2 with a projected four-day holiday gross of $20 million and six-day opening of $26.9 million from 4,099 theaters.
The family pic had been tracking for a launch in the $30 million to $35 million range. Its performance underscores ongoing concern about the strength of the family market as the industry recovers from the pandemic. Universal remains convinced The Last Wish will have a long run in theaters since it faces little competition in the coming weeks.
Overseas, The Last Wish has earned a total of $32.5 million for a projected global cume of $57.2 million through Monday.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody is expected to open to $6.8 million for the four days from 3,625 theaters (Sony insiders believe that number could climb higher). The Whitney Houston biopic earned an A CinemaScore from audiences after garnering glowing reviews. At the international box office, I Wanna Dance With Somebody collected a very modest $2.6 million from its first 31 international markets.
Paramount’s star-packed Babylon, which received a C+ CinemaScore, is looking like a major disappointment unless it rebounds next week. Damien Chazelle’s period Hollywood movie, which runs north of three hours — similar to Avatar 2 — is projected for a four-day opening of $5.3 million from 3,343 theaters.
At the specialty box office, The Whale expanded into a total of 603 cinemas over Christmas. The A24 film is expected to earn roughly $1.4 million for the four-day weekend.
Among new offerings, Sarah Polley’s acclaimed Women Talking opened Friday in eight theaters. The MGM and UAR film, like numerous other titles, is no doubt being impacted by freezing temperatures in key markets such as New York. The film is projecting a $54,700 four-day debut for a location average of $6,837.
Sony Pictures Classics’ Living opened in three locations in New York and Los Angeles for an estimated four-day gross of $17,300 and location average of roughly $7,078.
Dec. 25, 8:25 a.m.: Updated.
Dec. 26, 9 a.m.: Updated.
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