'Avatar 2' approaches $900 million worldwide as 'Babylon' bombs at holiday box office

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While the merciless winter storms that hit much of North America this Christmas must be factored in, the Christmas box office was still largely taken over by 20th century “Avatar: The Way of Water,” while several newcomers struggled to find an audience.

As freezing temperatures sapped movie interest during this critical box office period, 4-day weekend estimates for James Cameron’s blockbuster were revised by Disney/20th Century to $82 million, down from $82 million. 85 million or more at the start of last week. But after bringing in a stronger-than-expected $29.5 million on Christmas Day, the long weekend’s total was revised to $90 million.

That would give “Avatar 2” a domestic total as of Monday of $287 million, roughly 7% behind the pace of 2022’s top-grossing film, “Top Gun: Maverick.”

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Hopes for a global total of over $2 billion as the first “Avatar” were dashed due to the COVID-19 outbreak in China, but overseas receipts still remain strong with “Avatar 2” reporting a global ending total. 4-day weekends of at least $250 million. By the end of Monday, “The Way of Water” is expected to surpass $875 million in worldwide revenue and is expected to pass the $1 billion mark by New Year’s Day at the latest.

While windfall revenues in China do not happen, revenues in the main Asian market reached $100 million this weekend, while totals in South Korea and France surpassed $50 million, with strong retentions being reported in those countries.

Globally, the weekend drop for “Avatar 2” was maintained at 42%; and while that might not be as strong as expected for a sequel to a movie with one of the highest-grossing films in modern history, it’s impressive considering that Christmas Eve, a historically slow day to go to the movies, fell on a Saturday this year with the aforementioned storms and the COVID outbreaks also proved to be formidable obstacles.

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But other than “The Way of Water,” there wasn’t much for exhibitors and studios to celebrate this Christmas. “Avatar 2” accounted for about two-thirds of domestic revenue on Christmas Day, which only reached about $45 million in total. Aside from the 2020 pandemic shutdown, that’s the lowest Christmas Day box office total since 2002.

Of all the newcomers, the biggest flop was Paramount and Damien Chazelle’s Hollywood comedy-drama “Babylon,” an awards show with five Golden Globe nominations and a budget of at least $78 million before marketing, which earned a paltry $3.6 million debut through Sunday. and is projected for a 4-day opening of around $5.4 million.

The only possible hope for “Babylon” would be if a string of Oscar nominations revived interest in seeing the film next month, though that would require the film to reverse the trend of poor box office results for prestige films since last year. Given the film’s low ratings metrics – C+ on CinemaScore and 50% score on Rotten Tomatoes – this is unlikely.

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Despite the high-profile shooting failure, Paramount will be able to take the low for “Babylon” thanks to its strongest box office year since 2014, with $1.3 billion grossing in North America alone. “Babylon” also landed Chazelle an initial deal, as Paramount looks to build relationships with top filmmakers.

Sony’s “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is also struggling, topping “Babylon” at number three on the box office charts with an estimated 4-day opening weekend of just $6.8 million.

The Kasi Lemmons-directed biopic has an estimated budget of $45 million co-funded by a group of producers led by Black Label Media and Compelling Pictures, which will soften the blow for Sony should the film fail to find an audience beyond fans. by Whitney Houston. 🇧🇷 For now, those fans are embracing the movie, as it has Rotten Tomatoes scores of 46% from critics and 91% from audiences to go with an A on CinemaScore.

The film with the best chance of rebounding from its soft debut is the highest-grossing new release: Universal/DreamWorks’ “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which opened on Wednesday and is expected to take in $20 million during the four-day weekend. 🇧🇷 Including Wednesday and Thursday receipts and Thanksgiving weekend previews, the sequel is projected for an extended domestic opening of $26.9 million, down from the $46 million for the extended opening of Illumination’s “Sing 2” Christmas last year and pre-weekend projections of $30-33 million. – opening day.

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The good news is that “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” will be the only animated family opening for the rest of the winter, and word of mouth is extremely strong with an A CinemaScore and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 95% from critics. . and 93% audience. That will give this sequel a good chance to break out and turn a profit against its $90 million budget, especially once the winter storms subside.

Elsewhere, Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is poised to pass $800 million at the global box office after adding $3.3 million this weekend, taking its total to $428 million in North America. The film will be the sixth highest-grossing film of 2022, with a total about 42% less than the $ 1.38 billion raised by the first “Black Panther” in 2018.

Outside the top 5, A24’s “The Whale” grossed $1 million from 603 locations through Sunday and is estimated to bring in $1.4 million in its four opening days. Darren Aronofsky’s drama, which propelled Brendan Fraser to the forefront of the Best Actor Oscar race, has grossed $2.5 million so far, as most prestige films struggle to perform in this post-shutdown market.

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That was also the case for United Artists/Orion’s “Women Talking,” another top Oscar contender that opened in limited edition and grossed about $55,000 from eight screens for a per-theater average of $6,875. It’s worth noting that four of the five cities in which Sarah Polley’s feminist drama was released – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin and Toronto – were hit by winter storms this weekend.

Given current box office trends and the film’s frank and unflinching approach to dealing with domestic abuse, “Women Talking” is unlikely to gross much at the box office, given the struggles of similar films like “She Said.” But audience scores were strong, with an 81% “definite recommendation” on Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak. The film will expand on January 20, shortly before the Oscar nominees are announced.