Box Office: ‘Wonka’ Leads New Year’s Waltz as ‘Aquaman 2’ Continues to Sink

Hollywood Gossip
4 min readDec 31, 2023

Elsewhere, better-than-expected holiday performers ‘The Color Purple,’ ‘Anyone But You’ and ‘The Boys in the Boat’ helped domestic revenue eke past $9 billion in a post-pandemic first.

BY PAMELA MCCLINTOCK, DECEMBER 31, 2023

‘Wonka’ COURTESY EVERETT COLLECTION

Wonka is winning the long New Year’s weekend box office race as a tumultuous 2023 comes to a close.

The Warner Bros. origin pic — starring Timothée Chalamet as young candymaker Willy Wonka — is on course to gross $31.8 million for the four-day holiday weekend, putting its domestic tally at a sweet $142.5 million through Monday. Overseas, it earned $39.1 million from 77 markets for a hefty $244.4 million foreign tally and $386.9 million globally.

Wonka wasn’t the only musical from Warners to hit the right note. The Color Purple, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, has been doing better-than-expected business since opening on Dec. 25, and placed №4 on the New Year’s weekend chart with an estimated $17.7 million for the four days. The film’s estimated domestic tally through Monday is an impressive $50 million.

Two weeks ago, box office pundits weren’t sure whether domestic revenue could clear $9 billion after a brutal fall season. But thanks in particular to mid-range and smaller films that overperformed over Christmas, revenue was able to eke past $9 billion in a post-pandemic era first. That marks a 20 percent gain over 2022. The bummer: Revenue is still down 20 percent to 21 percent from 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 crisis.

Wonka, which launched in mid-December, emerged as this year’s Christmas box office winner when Warners’ very own Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom sunk in its box office debut over the Dec. 22–25 weekend and failed to recover in a meaningful way even though it stayed high up on the chart. The DC superhero sequel is looking at a №2 finish over New Year’s weekend with an estimated Friday-Monday gross of $26.3 million.

That would put Aquaman 2‘s domestic tally through Monday at a lackluster $84.7 million — compared to $215.4 million earned by the first Aquaman through New Year’s Day over the year-end holidays in 2018. Both films were directed by James Wan and star Jason Momoa in the titular role. The superhero pic is doing better overseas, where it earned another $50.5 million from 77 markets this weekend for a foreign tally of $173.6 million and $258.3 million globally (China accounts for a sizeable $45.8 million of the offshore total).

Even if Aquaman is struggling, cinema operators were grateful to Warner Bros. for releasing three event films within a span of a week or so that have contributed a combined $700 million to the bottom line.

After a sluggish start over Christmas weekend, Illumination and Universal’s Migration held in steadily for an estimated domestic total of $59.4 million through New Year’s Day after placing №3 for the long weekend with a four-day gross of $22.3 million. Its domestic total is ahead of the $55 million earned over the 2022 year-end holidays by Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which topped out with a strong $186.1 million domestically. Globally, Migration has earned $100 million (it’s been soft overseas).

The Color Purple, from Warners and Amblin, got off to a dazzling start Christmas Day with $18 million, the second-best opening ever for a film launching Dec. 25 and the best since 2009, not adjusted for inflation.

Wonka and The Color Purple appear to reverse the musical curse of recent times, and their success is good news for Paramount’s upcoming Mean Girls and Universal’s 2024 Christmas event pic Wicked.

The troubled rom-com genre also got a boost with Sony’s edgy holiday entry Anyone but You, which rounded out the top five with an estimated $11.5 million for the four days to push its domestic tally to $27.6 million.

MGM and Amazon’s George Clooney-directed The Boys in the Boat followed at №6 on the four-day holiday chart with $11 million for an estimated domestic total of $24.6 million through Monday.

A24’s wrestling drama The Iron Claw placed №7 with an estimated $6.9 million for the four days. The Zac Efron-led pic’s cume through Monday is a pleasing $18.2 million.

Neon’s Ferrari placed №8 over New Year’s weekend with an estimated $5.2 million for the four days for an early domestic tally of $12.1 million. Like The Color Purple and Boys in the Boat, Ferrari opened Christmas Day.

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