‘Wonka’ ends the year No. 1 at the box office

A wide array of films – among them ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’, ‘The Boys in the Boat’, ‘Migration’, ‘Ferrari’, ‘The Iron Claw’ and ‘Anyone But You’ – sought to break out over the year’s most lucrative box-office corridor

Updated - January 01, 2024 01:40 pm IST

Published - January 01, 2024 12:05 pm IST

Timothée Chalamet in ‘Wonka’.

Timothée Chalamet in ‘Wonka’. | Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube

Hollywood closed out an up and down 2023 with Wonka regaining No. 1 at the box office, strong sales for The Color Purple and an overall $9 billion in ticket sales that improved on 2022’s grosses but fell about $2 billion shy of pre-pandemic norms. The New Year’s weekend box office this year lacked a true blockbuster. (This time last year, Avatar: The Way of Water was inundating theaters.)

Instead, a wide array of films – among them Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, The Boys in the Boat, Migration, Ferrari, The Iron Claw and Anyone But You – sought to break out over the year’s most lucrative box-office corridor. The top choice, though, remained Wonka, Paul King’s musical starring Timothée Chalamet as a young Willy Wonka. In its third weekend, the Warner Bros. release collected an estimated $24 million Friday through Sunday and $31.8 million factoring in estimates for the Monday holiday. That brings the film’s domestical total to $142.5 million.

That bested Warner Bros.’ own Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom which, like previous DC superhero films, is struggling. James Wan’s Aquaman sequel starring Jason Momoa took in $19.5 million in its second weekend to bring its two-week haul to a modest $84.7 million including New Year’s Day estimates.

The original Aquaman, which ultimately surpassed $1.1 billion worldwide, had grossed $215.4 million over a similar period in 2018 – more than double that of the sequel. Internationally, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom added $50.5 million.

The Color Purple, Blitz Bazawule's adaptation of the 2005 stage musical from Alice Walker's novel, debuted on Monday and led all movies on Christmas with $18 million. Through the week, the Warner Bros. release has grossed $50 million, including $13 million Friday through Sunday. That’s a strong start for the crowd-pleaser starring Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson and Danielle Brooks. Audiences gave it an A.

The roughly $100 million production, which boasts Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones (all from the 1985 film) as producers, should play well through awards season. It's nominated for several Golden Globes and expected to be in the Oscar mix.

Despite a blockbuster-less holiday frame, the last weekend of the year pushed the industry past $9 billion in box office for the year in U.S. and Canadian theaters for the first time since before the pandemic. Ticket sales on the year were up 21% from 2022, according to data firm Comscore.

ALSO READ:‘Migration’ movie review: Taking flight on jolly wings

Still, it was a mark that seemed more easily within reach during the summer highs of Barbenheimer when both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” were breaking box-office records.

The enormous success of those two films changed the trajectory of Hollywood’s 2023, but so did the monthslong actors and writers strikes. Those forced the postponement of some top films (most notably Dune: Part Two ), diminishing an already patchwork fall lineup with few guaranteed ticket-sellers. One exception was the last-minute addition of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, which set a new record for concert films.

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