‘Wakanda Forever’ Tops For 5th Time In Year’s 2nd Worst Weekend
As we await the opening of Avatar: The Way of Water, the weekend’s box office was once again terrible, just narrowly avoiding being the year’s worst. With nothing new opening wide, the overall gross from all films declined 33% from last weekend for a cume of $35.5 million, the second worst of the year after January 28-30’s $34.9 million cume. Studios are understandably wary of opening ahead of the sequel to the world’s highest grossing film of all time, but the box office is suffering as a result, with another weekend that would have been the worst in decades before the pandemic.

The top five was entirely unchanged from last weekend. Unsurprisingly, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever came in first, tying with its predecessor for a total of five number one weekends. The sequel was down 37% for an $11.1 million weekend, bringing its cume to $410 million. This puts it right on the verge of crossing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness $411 million total, which will make it the second highest grossing film of the year thus far and the eighth-highest grosser in the MCU. The global cume is now at $768 million.

Second place went to Violent Night with $8.7 million, a great hold as it dropped just 35%. The R-rated action-comedy with Santa Claus as the hero has a ten day cume of $26.7 million, which is very solid for the $20 million budgeted film. It’s running just slightly behind the 2015 Christmas horror film Krampus (ten day cume of $28.6 million) which opened stronger ($16.3 million compared to $13.5 million) but had smaller weekday grosses and a smaller second weekend gross ($8.4 million, down 48%). Krampus finished with a cume of $42.7 million domestic and $61.5 million worldwide, numbers that Violent Night, which currently has a global cume of $41.8 million, could end up surpassing.

Strange World took third with $3.6 million, down 29%. Yes, that’s a good hold, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the year’s biggest flops. The cume on Disney’s expensive animated film (reported budget estimates range from $130 to $180 million) is just $30.5 million domestic and $53.5 million worldwide, and its post-third weekend domestic cume is less than half of where Encanto was last year at the same point in its release ($71.9 million, before finishing with a cume of $96 million domestic and $257 million worldwide).

The Menu ended up in fourth with $2.7 million, continuing to hold well with a decline of just 22%. The film is at $29 million domestic and $57.7 million worldwide. It will soon double its $30 million production budget, and though the numbers aren’t sensational, it’s looking like a solid hit if it can keep the holds up, and it’s among the most impressive box office performances in recent months considering it is offbeat genre fare without huge names attached.

Devotion rounds out the top five as it drops 27%, grossing $2 million in its third weekend. The costly aerial war epic is still struggling to take off, with a cume of just $17 million.

While the numbers are by and large bleak this weekend, there is one bit of good news which came out of the specialty box office. The $360k opening of A24’s The Whale in six theaters set a new record for the year’s highest theater average at $60k. The year’s previous best theater average was Everything Everywhere All at Once, which opened to $501k from 10 theaters, averaging at $50k. That film, of course, went on to become the year’s only runaway arthouse blockbuster, grossing $70 million domestic and $103 million worldwide, setting new records for A24. Openings with high averages don’t always translate to strong numbers after expanding, as we saw with this fall’s major arthouse releases Tár ($40k average), The Banshees of Inisherin ($46k average), and The Fablemans ($40k average), none of which have managed to gross above $10 million despite their strong limited opening numbers. Still, it’s a positive sign for The Whale, which is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Brendan Fraser who is an Oscar frontrunner for his performance as a 600+ pound man who tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter. This is one to keep an eye on when it expands on the 21st.

Other than The Whale, the specialty box office continued to lack punch this weekend. Focus’ expansion of Spoiler Alert from 6 to 783 theaters gave it a weekend of $700k for a cume of $803k. Meanwhile, Searchlight’sEmpire of Light, the new film from Sam Mendes, grossed just $160k from 110 theaters.