December 29, 2018

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “Aquaman” Swims Long-Distance, “Mary Poppins” Up, “Vice,” “Holmes & Watson” Soft


The holiday box office has turned out to be AQUAMAN (DC/Warners), and then everything else.  Preliminary numbers at Deadline have its 3rd Friday at $16.8M, up 15% from Thursday and down 40% from last Friday, for a likely $51M weekend, and $215M by New Year’s Day.  Comparisons to other DC releases at the same point in their runs are meaningless, since Christmas Week box office is unlike any of the other 51 weeks of the year, and predictions for post-holiday performance are tough, since precedents are all over the place.  (In the first January weekend of 2018, The Greatest Showman slipped just 11% from the previous weekend, and went on to earn almost 70% of its US total after New Year’s Day, while The Last Jedi sank 55% on the same weekend, and earned only 14% of its US total post-New Year’s.)  Assuming a middle ground for Aquaman, it could end up upwards of $300M in the US, which would put it above Man of Steel and Justice League, but below the other DC releases, none of which had the advantage of the giant holiday corridor.  However, Aquaman is likely to be the biggest overseas hit in the franchise.

MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Disney) is holding well with a $10.7M Friday, up 6% from Thursday and a big 60% from last Friday, for a $32M weekend and $120M by New Year’s.  That’s an OK result but far from an exciting one for a Disney super-production with $250M+ in production/marketing costs, and with a US total that may not get past $200M, it may require a great deal of international success to hit profit before non-theatrical revenues kick in.

BUMBLEBEE (Tencent/Paramount) had a $6.7M Friday, up 16% from Thursday and down 21% from last Friday, for a $20M weekend and $80M by New Year’s, with perhaps $125M as a US total, a very mild sum for a production with $200M in costs.  The Transformers audience seems to have limited interest in a small-scale version of the franchise, even one with great reviews.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (Sony Animation/Columbia/Sony) is in a very similar position with a $6.4M Friday, up 8% from Thursday and up 33% from last Friday for a $19M weekend and $115M by New Year’s.  It may hit $150M in the US despite rapturous reviews, and so far its international appeal (including in China) has been so-so.

THE MULE (BRON/Warners) has found its target audience, up 25% from Thursday and up 44% from last Friday to $3.9M, for a $12M weekend and $70M by New Year’s.  It could reach $95M+ in the US, and although it hasn’t yet begun its international release, it should find some profit on moderate costs.

VICE (Annapurna) always figured to be a tough sell, and mixed reviews (64% on Rotten Tomatoes) aren’t helping.  Friday’s $2.7M was up 17% from Thursday, but an $8M weekend would be down from the $10.5M wide opening weekend of The Big Short, which had two holiday weekends in its run rather than one.  Vice will need help from the Golden Globes (which have nominated it heavily) and the Oscars to touch Big Short‘s $70.3M US total, and with $100M in production/marketing costs, it can’t afford to end up lower.

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (Disney) had a $2.5M Friday, up 14% from Thursday and a big 90% from last Friday.  With a $7.5M weekend and $181M by New Year’s, it will continue to run more or less parallel with last year’s Coco, and should wind up close to that film’s $209.7M US total.

HOLMES & WATSON (Columbia/Sony) has been sinking since its Tuesday opening, and if it has a Friday bump from Thursday at $2.5M, it will be a tiny one.  A $7.5M weekend would put it below $25M by New Year’s, and while it won’t be the disaster of The House, it will be one of Will Ferrell’s lowest-grossing star vehicles.

SECOND ACT (STX) was up around 5% from Thursday to $2.1M, but that was down 15% from last Friday, and it’s on track for a $6M weekend and $25M by New Year’s, unlikely to top $40M in the US, or to reach worldwide breakeven.

THE GRINCH (Illumination/Universal) was the one true “Christmas” movie of the season, and its $1.6M Friday was down 5% from Thursday and 31% from last Friday, for a $4.5M weekend.  Nevertheless, a $270M total by New Year’s won’t leave anyone’s heart very many sizes too small.

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Focua/Universal) and THE FAVOURITE (Fox Searchlight), both in semi-wide release at respectively 841 and 809 theatres, were in very similar places, with $900K and $750K on Friday for weekends in the neighborhood of $2.5M.  Neither compares well with the $3.9M weekend that Darkest Hour had last year at 806 theatres.  Favourite has the brighter outlook of the two, since it’s more likely to get Oscar attention in major categories.

WELCOME TO MARWEN (DreamWorks/Participant/Universal) remained the biggest flop of the season with a $750K Friday that was up 15% from Thursday but down 16% from last Friday, not that it mattered with a $2M weekend on deck and a woeful $9M total by New Year’s.

None of the year’s final limited releases showed much spark.  ON THE BASIS OF SEX (Focus/Universal) should have a $21K per-theatre weekend average at 33 theaters.  (By comparison, The Favourite averaged $32K at 33.)  STAN & OLLIE (Sony Classics) and DESTROYER (Annapurna) should each average $15K, respectively at 5 and 3 theatres.

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."