‘Wakanda Forever’ Likely To Top Fifth Weekend As Box Office Slows To A Crawl
Last weekend had a grim overall box office of $52.6 million, the sixth worst of the year. As nothing major opens this weekend, we’re in for what will likely be the second or third worst weekend of the year, with the overall cume possibly sinking below $40 million. It shouldn’t stoop as low as the $34.9 million grossing January 28-30 weekend, the worst of the year, but that’s about as positive of a spin that we can give on the dreary state of the box office as we await its revival with the opening of Avatar: The Way of Water next weekend.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever should top the box office for the fifth and final time (which happens to be the same amount of weekends that the first Black Panther topped the charts, though that was a more impressive feat given the competition it faced). Following its $17.5 million post-Thanksgiving weekend, it would need a drop of under 43% to stay above $10 million, otherwise the weekend will be bereft of any film to even make the double digit millions. Putting aside the unfortunate box office climate, the numbers are strong on ]Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which is at $396 million through Tuesday (and $736 million worldwide). Topping Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ $411 million cume to become the year’s second highest domestic grosser is a lock, whether it gets there this weekend, next weekend, or somewhere in between. This weekend it could crack the list of the MCU’s top ten domestic grossers, knocking Captain America: Civil War ($408 million) from its slot.

If there’s a possibility for an upset this weekend, it comes from Violent Night. After a solid $13.5 million opening, a strong hold on the generally well received Christmas action-comedy could carry it to number one at the box office. If Violent Night were to drop 40%, that’d give it an $8.07 million weekend two, which would be just ahead of ]Black Panther: Wakanda Forever if it drops 54% ($8.068 million). That may not be especially likely, but it’s possible, as are plenty of other combinations that could put Violent Night at the top. Whether it ends up in first or second and with a mid or high single digit millions gross, the film, which is at $16 million through Tuesday, should end the weekend in the mid-20s, which is a good place to be given its $20 million budget. Internationally it has a cume of $8.3 million thus far.

Beyond the top two, no film is likely to gross above $3 million (even in last year’s terrible winter season, this same weekend’s top five was all above $3 million). Clearly, Avatar: The Way of Water can’t come soon enough, though a steadier supply of solid counterprogramming is also desperately needed. As for new releases, it’s all in the specialty box office segment, but nothing looks likely to break out.

Debuting in limited release is Sam Mendes’Empire of Light. The Searchlight release, which stars Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward, is a romantic drama set around a cinema hall in 1980s coastal England. Ho-hum reviews (43% on Rotten Tomatoes) are a liability here, but even if it had a consensus of raves it is hard to imagine it doing any better than Steven Spielberg’s nostalgic love letter to cinema The Fabelmans, which is itself struggling to find an audience despite the acclaim and awards buzz (it has a cume of $5.87 million after two weeks at 638 theaters).

The other notable limited release is The Whale from A24. The Darren Aronofsky film is getting Oscar buzz for Brendan Fraser’s performance as a reclusive 600 pound man who tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Reviews are positive if not sensational (71% on Rotten Tomatoes).

This weekend also has the expansion of Focus’ Spoiler Alert, which opened in six theaters last Friday for a $93k gross through Tuesday. Lastly, there’s the re-release/recut of Father Stu, which opened in April with an R-rating and grossed $20.9 million. Now the film, which stars Mark Wahlberg as a boxer turned Catholic priest, is back in a PG-13 cut titled Father Stu: Reborn. Given the faith based subject matter, having a new, family-friendly version come out in the holiday season could help it milk out some extra millions, even though the original cut is widely available at home.