December 17, 2022

Behind the US/Worldwide Box Office – 12.18.22


OPENINGS:  This was the weekend of AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER (20th/Disney), and the epic’s launch was softer than widely expected at $134M in the US and $301M in all major overseas markets including China.  Box office apologists, who at this point resemble political press secretaries, have rushed in to spin that Way of Water will likely thrive through the holidays with no serious competition, and possibly all the way to the opening of the new Ant Man in mid-February 2023, and that’s absolutely true.  But it’s equally true that everyone already knew about that when the opening weekend estimates were compiled.  We’ll see if Way of Water has a phenomenally small Weekend 2 drop that sustains for weeks–certainly the original Avatar did in 2009-2010, down a microscopic 2% in its 2nd weekend and 9% the weekend after that–but right now the sequel seems to be on a trajectory for $450M+ in the US and double that number overseas.

HOLDOVERS:  One aspect of the weekend that played out as expected was that everything that wasn’t Avatar was left in the dust.  As this is being written, there seems to be some dispute as to the #2-#3 rankings, with various sources listing the 6th weekend of BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (Marvel/Disney) at $5.2-5.4M, in any case down around 50% for the weekend with the loss of its Imax and other premium screens.  It’s on its way to $440M in the US, and has $367.5M overseas.

The reporting spread is even wider for the 3rd weekend of VIOLENT NIGHT (Universal), with weekend reports ranting from $5.6M down to $5M, as it heads to a solid $55M in the US.  Its overseas total is $20.1M.

STRANGE WORLD (Disney) dropped 42% to $2.2M in its 4th weekend, on track for a terrible $40-45M in the US, with an even worse $23.2M internationally to date.

THE MENU (Searchlight/Disney) lost 39% to $1.7M in its 5th weekend, still stretching toward $40M in the US.  It also has $29.2M overseas.

LIMITED RELEASE:  EMPIRE OF LIGHT (Searchlight/Disney) quadrupled its theater count to a near-wide 436, and climbed 44% for the weekend, giving it a dismal $500 weekend per-theater average.  ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED (Neon) expanded to 48 with a $700 average.  Last week, THE WHALE (A24) set the year’s per-theater average record with $55K at 6, but after a 49% drop, its $28K average (still at 6) is equal to the 2nd week average of Everything Everywhere All At Once after that film expanded to 38 theaters.

NEXT WEEK:  The rest of the wide holiday releases arrive, with PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH (DreamWorks Animation/Universal) on Wednesday, and I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY (Columbia/Sony) and BABYLON (Paramount) on Friday.  Awards hopefuls making their debuts include LIVING (Sony Classics), CORSAGE (IFC) and WOMEN TALKING (United Artists/MGM/Amazon).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."