December 23-25 Box Office Predictions

After a domestic debut that unquestionably fell on the lower end of expectations, Avatar: The Way of Water hopes for a strong sophomore outing and smoother sailing throughout the season. It will remain in first while three newcomers should populate the 2-4 slots.

They are DreamWorks Animation’s sequel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, musical biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and Damien Chazelle’s once upon a time in Hollywood dramedy Babylon with Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt. My detailed prediction posts on the trio can be accessed here:

The box office range of Yuletide releases can be tied to how the dates work out on the calendar. Christmas Eve is Saturday and it can be limited as potential moviegoers are preparing the big day. On the other hand, Christmas itself can be potent. Bottom line: it’s important to remember that weekdays at this time of year can be just as booming as weekends as people are taking time off.

Boots gets a jump on Wednesday while Babylon and Somebody drop Friday. Sporting impressive reviews, Puss is poised to be the runner-up to Water. The three-day might fall in the high teens to low 20s range with close to $30 million for the five-day.

Third place is going to one of the other openers. I’m forecasting that a solid African-American and female turnout could give the Whitney flick the edge. I expect Somebody to double digits while Babylon falls just under. The five spot should be close between holdovers Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Violent Night.

Now we return to Avatar. There’s more chatter below on the lesser than anticipated start. Yet it’s also fair to say that future weekends will ultimately determine whether it’s a success or not. The A Cinemascore grade (same as part 1) should help. I’ll say a mid to high 40s decline happens over Christmas while the leveling off might be far less pronounced in the 3rd frame and beyond.

Here’s how I’m seeing the top 6 playing out:

1 . Avatar: The Way of Water

Predicted Gross: $73.4 million

2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Predicted Gross: $18.3 million (Friday to Sunday); $28.5 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

3. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Predicted Gross: $11.5 million

4. Babylon

Predicted Gross: $8.7 million

5. Violent Night

Predicted Gross: $3.3 million

6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Predicted Gross: $3.2 million

Box Office Results (December 16-18)

The general consensus was that Avatar: The Way of Water, the long awaited sequel to James Cameron’s largest worldwide earner in history, would amass a stateside start of around $175 million. I projected $173.1 million. That didn’t happen. Water made $134.1 million and that’s the fifth highest debut of 2022 (a hair ahead of The Batman). As mentioned, success will not be judged here it if manages to develop sturdy legs in the next several weeks (as the filmmaker’s predecessors Titanic and Avatar certainly did). For now the jury is out while the expected mark wasn’t achieved domestically out of the gate. On a global basis – it brought in another $300 million. The $435 million tally is second only to May’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Unsurprisingly nothing else wanted to open opposite Avatar as the rest of the chart was stuffed with holdovers. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, after five weeks on top, was second with $5.3 million. On pace with my $5.5 million call, the six-week total is $418 million.

Violent Night was right behind in third with $5 million, on target with my $4.9 million projection. The three-week gross is $35 million.

Disney dud Strange World was fourth with $2.2 million, a smidge below my $2.6 million take for a dull $33 million overall.

The Menu completed the top five at $1.6 million (I said $1.9 million) for $32 million it its coffers.

And that does it for now, folks! Happy Holidays!

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