I’ve been oh so curious for months now to see how this particular weekend would go at the domestic box office. With so many big movies entering the marketplace, who would thrive, who would struggle? Turns out, the champ among this gaggle of high-profile releases was Aquaman, which bowed to $67 million. That’s the lowest opening weekend for a live-action Marvel Comics or DC Comics release since X-Men: Apocalypse in May 2016 but it’s the ninth biggest December opening weekend in history and this time of year really allows big blockbusters like Aquaman to stick around in the marketplace.
Aquaman should be able to get past $200 million domestically and can probably outpace the $229 million domestic opening of Justice League as well. Aquaman may not have broken out big time but this is still a great debut for a superhero who’s been a laughingstock for a long time and a $230-240 million final domestic total would make it the eleventh biggest Superhero Origin Movie in history. These DC Comics heroes are massively popular in pop culture and Aquaman is further proof, following Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, that Warner Bros. and DC Films don’t have to just rely on Batman or Superman for big domestic box office.
Smushing so many major movies onto one weekend seems to have minimized everyone’s opening weekends as a whole for the frame, a good reminder for Hollywood studios to spread their releases out across the calendar. One film that came in lower than expected was Mary Poppins Returns, which I thought was gonna end up as the big family movie juggernaut to beat over the holidays. With only $22.2 million, it’s opening weekend, though the tenth biggest in history for a live-action musical, is only OK for a big family movie opening during the holiday season. For instance, it came in behind the opening weekends of fellow December family movies The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked and Eragon, not exactly ideal box office comparisons. Having now grossed $31 million in its first five days of release, this one will look to make up ground in the coming days ahead, though it’s tough to imagine it getting much higher than $140 million domestically.
Bumblebee also came in under expectations this frame with a $21 million bow, way below the opening weekends of other live-action Transformers movies and the biggest December family movies. It’s likely Bumblebee gets past $100 million domestically with Christmastime legs, but it’s doubtful it gets much higher than that. Paramount Pictures may have gotten this franchise to a new level of quality artistically, but opening it against so many high-profile movies also competing for family audiences ensured that Bumblebee couldn’t hit its fullest potential at the domestic box office. Both Mary Poppins Returns and Bumblebee will be making plenty of cash in the next two weeks but these two titles got off to weak enough starts this frame that it’s gonna be difficult for them to really make up enough ground in the days to come.
All of these new family movies meant Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse dropped a steep 52% this weekend, a much higher than usual second-weekend decline for movies that receive an A+ CinemaScore or December family movies in general. Grossing another $16.7 million this frame, the newest Spidey adventure has taken in only $64.8 million after ten days of release. Not nearly as affected by the tidal wave of new family movies was The Mule, which dropped 43% to gross another $9.9 million for a $35.6 million domestic total to date. Next up we have The Grinch, which fell only 30% this weekend for an $8.1 million seventh weekend of release, bringing it up to a $253.2 million domestic total.
Next up we have another newcomer, Second Act, which grossed $6.5 million this weekend. That’s not a particularly great number even for this holiday season timeframe where movies can stick around for a while in the marketplace, but it’s also not terrible given that it only cost $15 million to produce. This one’s probably looking at a $25-30 million domestic finish. Right behind it was Ralph Breaks The Internet, which fell 50% this weekend, a much larger than usual drop for a Thanksgiving Disney Animation title in its fifth weekend of wide release. Grossing another $4.5 million, Ralph has now grossed $162 million and it’s anyone’s guess if this title can actually manage to crack $200 million domestically. If it doesn’t, both Wreck-It Ralph movies will be the only computer-animated titles Disney Animation has released in the 2010’s that have failed to crack $200 million domestically.
Our final new wide release of the weekend was Welcome To Marwen, which ended up becoming one of the biggest financial disasters of 2018. With only a $2.3 million opening weekend, this was the worst opening weekend for a Universal wide release in over ten years, the last time they had a worse wide release opening weekend was with the much cheaper Flash of Genius at the start of October 2008. Though Universal pushed what they dubbed “The Most Original Film Of The Year” heavily by placing its trailer on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the marketing just made it look like Small Soldiers 2 and its lack of appeal to both mainstream moviegoers and arthouse moviegoers meant it was doomed. The box office cold streak of director Robert Zemeckis continues onward. Maybe that The Flash movie needs a director?
Mary Queen of Scots had a decent expansion into wide release this frame as it grossed $2.2 from 795 locations for a per-theater average of $2,818, a far cry from the $3.8 million Darkest Hour took in in its first wide release weekend over this frame last year but still a decent gross for a movie that hasn’t garnered much in the way of award season traction. Mary has now grossed $3.5 million domestically. The Favourite had its first-ever weekend-to-weekend decline just as it expanded into wide release for the first time, not a great sign. Dipping 21% this weekend, it grossed $2 million from 790 locations for a per-theater average of $2,608 and a domestic total of $10 million, making this the first Yorgos Lanthimos directorial effort to crack $10 million domestically. As it lost over 1,000 theaters in the face of daunting newcomers, Bohemian Rhapsody had its first notable weekend-to-weekend drop as it fell 57% this frame to gross another $1.7 million for a domestic total to date of $184.6 million.
Mortal Engines flew off the road in its second weekend of release as it plummeted 77%, the 23rd biggest second-weekend drop for a wide release in history. Grossing another $1.7 million, this box office dud has grossed only $11.9 million domestically. Surprisingly, Creed II also had a massive drop this weekend as it fell 71% for a fifth weekend gross of $1.5 million for a domestic total of $108.7 million. Falling 49% this frame was Green Book, which grossed another $1.4 million for a domestic total to date of just $27.5 million. Yet another steep weekend-to-weekend decline could be found in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which fell a whopping 77% this frame for a sixth-weekend take of only $860,000 for a domestic total of $154.4 million.
There really weren’t any strong holdovers this weekend (The Grinch and The Mule were really it among non-arthouse titles) as seen by how Once Upon A Deadpool was yet another holdover to fall over 70%. This Deadpool 2 re-release fell 71% to gross another $775,000 for a 12-day haul of $5.7 million. The domestic release of Ben Is Back seems to be already finished now that it’s down to a sub-$2,500 per-theater average as seen by how it only grossed $392,075 from 162 locations for a per-theater average of $2,420 for a domestic total of $711,879. A Star Is Born was one of numerous holdovers to have a sharp weekend-to-weekend decline this frame as it fell 68%, but its $330,000 haul this weekend did see it cracking $200 million domestically, becoming only the eleventh movie of 2018 to gross that much domestically. In its second weekend of release, If Beale Street Could Talk fell 48% from last weekend and grossed an additional $114,902 from 5 locations for a per-theater average of $22,980 and a domestic total of $428,050. Finally, Cold War debuted to $55,727 from 3 locations for a per-theater average of $18,576.
The top 12 movies grossed a total of $165 million, the fourth biggest 3-day 51st weekend of any given year.