Box Office: ‘Wonka’ Beats ‘Aquaman 2’ in Final 2023 Matchup

Box Office: ‘Wonka’ Beats ‘Aquaman 2’ in Final 2023 Matchup

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“Aquaman and the Lost City” is quickly sinking at the box office.

The comic book adventure, starring Jason Momoa as the King of Atlantis, was positioned on the calendar as the de facto blockbuster of the holiday season. But, so far, the follow-up to 2018’s megahit “Aquaman” has failed to recapture the spark of the original. The $205 million-budgeted tentpole caps off 2023, a terrible year for superhero movies, as the fourth consecutive flop for Warner Bros. and DC Studios following “The Flash,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “Blue Beetle.”

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” swam to second place in its sophomore outing, collecting a soft $19.5 million over the weekend and an estimated $26 million through Monday’s holiday. It has grossed $84 million domestically after two weeks of release.

Audiences instead chose to ring in 2024 with “Wonka,” which reclaimed the top spot on domestic box office charts with $23.9 million over the weekend and an estimated $31 million through New Year’s Day. The fantasy musical, led by Timothée Chalamet as the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, has continued to impress at the box office with $142 million domestically and $300 million worldwide to date. It cost $100 million, making it a worthy revisit to the world of pure imagination.

It has been a lackluster holiday season without a potential billion-dollar blockbuster, in the vein of the first “Aquaman,” “Spider-Man” or “Avatar,” in the mix. However, ticket sales from Christmas to New Year’s were enough to take domestic grosses past the $9 billion mark for 2023, according to Comscore. It’s the highest-grossing year since COVID upended the movie theater industry — far above 2022’s $7.46 billion haul and 2021’s $4.56 billion tally. But it’s not quite at pre-pandemic levels when the box office comfortably reached $10 billion to $11 billion a year. 

“A couple of weeks ago, there was some doubt as to whether the industry could achieve that goal [of $9 billion]. It came right down to the wire,” says senior Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “The sheer volume of films made the difference.”

Universal and Illumination’s “Migration” flocked to the No. 3 spot with $17.2 million from 3,839 theaters over the weekend and an estimated $22.3 million through New Year’s Day. The animated comedy, written by Mike White and featuring the voice cast of Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks and Awkwafina, has grossed $58.8 million in North America and $100 million globally to date. “Migration” cost $70 million, so the studio is hoping the well-reviewed film continues to enjoy the staying power of recent family movies, such as “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and Pixar’s “Elemental.”

In fourth place, “The Color Purple” added $13 million from 3,203 venues over the weekend and an estimated $17 million through Monday’s holiday. The adaptation of the book-turned-beloved-movie-turned-hit-Broadway-musical has generated an encouraging $50 million during its first week in theaters. The film, directed by Blitz Bazawule, has already outgrossed recent stage-to-screen stories — including “West Side Story,” “In the Heights,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Cats” in their domestic runs. But it cost $100 million, so “The Color Purple” needs to stick around through the new year to turn a profit. Positive reviews and encouraging word-of-mouth should benefit the movie, led by “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino and co-starring Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks and Colman Domingo.

“The film has played well during the week and should continue over the New Year’s holiday,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.

Sony’s R-rated comedy “Anyone But You” rounded out the top five with $9 million over the weekend and $11.5 million through New Year’s Day. The $25 million film, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, has amassed $27.5 million after two weeks of release.

“The Boys in the Boat,” which tells the true story of the University of Washington rowing team representing the U.S. in the 1936 Olympic games, placed sixth with $8.3 million over the weekend and an estimated $11 million through Monday. George Clooney directed the PG-13 film, which stars Joel Edgerton and has grossed $24.6 million so far.

“This is a very good start for a sports drama,” Gross adds. “With an ‘A’ CinemaScore, this film is a crowd-pleaser.”

Another Christmastime release, A24’s sports drama “The Iron Claw,” added $5 million from 2,794 theaters over the weekend and an estimated $6.9 million through Monday. The film, starring Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White as members of the Von Erich family, a dynasty of professional wrestlers who were plagued with a series of tragedies, has earned $18 million after 10 days on the big screen. It cost $16 million.

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