As expected, “Aquaman” is the clear film of choice on this pre-Christmas box office weekend, easily taking the No. 1 spot with an estimated $67.4 million opening from 4,125 screens. When Wednesday and Amazon preview screenings are included, that pushes the film’s domestic launch to $72.1 million.
Though that is well below the $93.8 million made by “Justice League” last year, a lower figure was expected between the sheer amount of competing films released this holiday season and the usual slowdown in movie theater traffic that comes in the days before Christmas. “Aquaman” is already on its way to becoming a big global hit for Warner Bros., having made an estimate $410 million overseas through this weekend and expected to blow past $500 million globally after Christmas Day.
“Aquaman” and all the other new releases this weekend will look earn a strong sum on Christmas and in the weekends to come, as families and other major demographics usually watch multiple films during the Christmas/New Year’s period. The film has earned the approval of audiences with an A- on CinemaScore, even as critics were somewhat less enthused with a 64 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.
Instead of releasing a “Star Wars” movie as they have done the past three years, Disney released “Mary Poppins Returns” this holiday. The sequel, which released on Wednesday grossed $22.2 million from 4,090 screens for a five-day launch of $31 million. That is enough to push Disney’s combined domestic annual grosses to $3 billion for the second time in the past three years, and it is the only studio to have reached that mark.
“Poppins” was the top choice for female audiences, who accounted for 60 percent of tickets sold. Like past musicals like “The Greatest Showman,” this $130 musical is looking to leg out well into January. The film has an A- on CinemaScore and a 77 percent RT score.
In third is Paramount’s “Bumblebee,” which only opened to $21 million as it faced heavy competition from “Aquaman.” But again, there’s plenty of time for audiences to double back and see this “Transformers” spinoff in later weeks. Word of mouth has been stronger for this film than any other new release this weekend, with critics giving it by far the highest RT score of any “Transformers” film with 94 percent. It also received an A- on CinemaScore.
Completing the top five are Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and WB’s “The Mule.” “Spider-Verse” held on decently in the face of superhero competition, dropping 54 percent to an estimated $16.5 million for a 10-day total of $65 million while opening in China to a No. 1 total of $26 million. “The Mule” dropped 47 percent in its second weekend to $9.3 million for a domestic total of $35 million.
Outside the top five, STX’s “Second Act” came in seventh with an estimated $6.5 million from 2,602 cinemas, somewhat behind the projected opening of $8 million. Made on a $16 million budget, the film earned a mixed reception with a B+ on CinemaScore and a 41 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.
By far the biggest bomb of the weekend was Universal’s “Welcome to Marwen,” which fell well below tracking and is opening to just $2.4 million from 1,911 screens and against a reported $40 million budget. It’s tied with Paramount’s “Action Point” for the worst opening from a major studio this year, and comes a weekend after Universal released another bomb, “Mortal Engines,” which fell 76 percent this weekend to gross $1.7 million for a 10-day domestic total of $11.9 million and a global total of $54.3 million.
The bright side for Universal is that “The Grinch” is still going strong in its seventh weekend, passing the $250 million domestic mark with a total of $8.2 million in this pre-Christmas frame. Internationally, the Illumination film grossed $23.7 million from 62 markets for a global total of $422.5 million.
Finally, in its 12th weekend in theaters, Warner Bros.’ Oscar contender “A Star Is Born” crossed the $200 million domestic mark, grossing $330,000 from 262 screens. Even after “Aquaman” completes its theatrical run, Bradley Cooper’s film will rank second in domestic grosses among all of WB’s 2018 releases, currently accounting for 11 percent of the studio’s $1.74 billion domestic annual total.