‘Aquaman’ Easily Swims to No. 1 at Holiday Box Office

“Bumblebee,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Spider-Verse” in tight race for second

Aquaman final trailer Amazon Prime
Warner Bros.

It’s a big weekend for Warner Bros. and the DC Universe, as “Aquaman” will easily take the top spot on this pre-Christmas box office.

Released on 4,125 screens, the James Wan blockbuster made $28 million on Friday and is currently projected for an opening weekend of $70-75 million, though that estimate could increase to $80 million. The movie has already made over $300 million from overseas markets and could hit $500 million worldwide by Christmas Day.

While critics weren’t as strong in their praise for “Aquaman” as they were for “Wonder Woman,” reviews were still fairly positive with a 63 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and an A- on CinemaScore from audiences. With this strong start, “Aquaman” should pass the global total for “Justice League” ($657.9 million) in early January.

In a distant race for second are three films that will be looking beyond this weekend for long-term success in the holiday season. Currently in the No. 2 spot is Paramount’s “Bumblebee,” which made $8.4 million from 3,550 screens and is estimated for a $22 million opening weekend.

While that’s well-below what trackers projected, the film has the word of mouth to rebound in the coming weeks. Critics — who have uniformly panned the “Transformers” series for a decade — have praised director Travis Knight’s spinoff with a 94 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, the highest of any new release this weekend. “Transformers” fans agree, giving the film an A- on CinemaScore.

In third is Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” which made $6.7 million on Friday from 4,090 screens. Released on Wednesday, the musical sequel is looking at a $21.5 million three-day opening and a $30 million five-day opening. Disney will look to leg out with musical lovers and older audiences who saw the original “Mary Poppins,” following in the footsteps of last year’s “The Greatest Showman,” which seemed to be headed for a flop with a $13 million opening but had a $174 million domestic run.

Holdovers complete the top five, with “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” holding on decently in the face of tough family film competition. The Sony animated film is looking at a fourth-place finish with a $17.8 million weekend, roughly a 50 percent drop-off from its $35.4 million opening. Warner Bros.’ “The Mule” is in fifth with an estimated $10 million second weekend.

Outside the top five, STX’s “Second Act” is looking at an opening of around $7 million from 2,607 screens after making $2.4 million on Friday. It’s slightly below the $8 million studio projection for this Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy, which was made on a $16 million budget. Reception was mixed with a 41 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and a B+ on CinemaScore.

By far the worst opening belonged to Universal’s “Welcome to Marwen,” which has been panned by critics despite having Robert Zemeckis and Steve Carell as director and star and is looking at a meager opening of $2.7 million after making just $909,000 from 1,911 screens. With a 25 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and a B- from CinemaScore polls, this $40 million true-story inspirational tale is going to be a second straight flop for Universal. The other big bomb, “Mortal Engines,” is falling a staggering 76 percent and is estimated to make $1.8 million this weekend for a total of $12.1 million.

The one bit of good news for Universal has been “The Grinch,” which continues to be the gift that keeps on giving with just under $9 million grossed in its seventh weekend, pushing the domestic total to $253 million.