December 22, 2018

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “Aquaman” Swims Past “Mary Poppins,” “Bumblebee”


Considering the spotty box office record of the DC movie franchise, it was something of a risk to place AQUAMAN (DC/Warners) at the center of the holiday market, but the bet is paying off, at least to an extent.  According to preliminary numbers at Deadline, opening day for Aquaman was technically $27.7M, although that includes not just $9M from Thursday night, but another $4.7M from additional pre-release screenings.  A $69M 3-day weekend would be the lowest of the DC franchise, but we’re entering Hollywood’s 12 days of Christmas, when every day through January 1 performs like it’s part of a weekend.  Aquaman could reach as high as $200M+ by the end of the holidays, and perform for several weeks afterward if word of mouth is kind.

The rest of the holiday box office picture, however, is rather underwhelming.  BUMBLEBEE (Tencent/Paramount) had a mild $8.3M opening day (including $3M from Thursday night and earlier paid previews), for a 3-day weekend of $23M or so.  Once again, the holiday will help greatly, and Bumblebee might reach $100M by January 1.  But with $200M+ in production/marketing costs, that could leave the Transformers spin-off looking overseas for profit.

It’s not good news that the spinners are already clutching comparisons to The Greatest Showman in discussing MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Disney)Showman had phenomenal word of mouth that drove it to $174.3M in the US (20x its opening weekend), but Poppins was expected to be a much more pre-sold commodity than a musical about PT Barnum.  It earned $6.9M on Friday, on track for a $22M 3-day weekend ($31M since its Wednesday opening), and $100M or so in 2 holiday weeks would be a significant disappointment.

Poppins was only $1.8M above the $5.1M 2nd Friday of SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (Sony Animation/Columbia/Sony), down 60% from last Friday and on track for a $17M weekend.  Considering its stellar reviews and the fame of the franchise, a $125M overall total by January 1 would be unexciting.

THE MULE (Bron/Warners) sagged by 52% from last Friday to $2.8M for a $10M weekend, and it might be at a fair $70M by the end of the holidays.

It’s high season for THE GRINCH (Illumination/Universal), down just 15% to $2.3M compared to last Friday despite the arrival of Poppins, and heading for a $9M weekend and perhaps $275M by the time the holidays are over.

The sound of studios assuring onlookers that they’ve pushed costs onto gullible third parties is never a positive, and SECOND ACT (STX) is beating that drum after a $2.5M opening day that may bring it to $7M by Sunday and $30M by New Year’s.  As always, someone will end up holding the bag, whether it’s STX or its partners.

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (Disney) dropped 35% from last Friday to $1.3M, for a $5M weekend.  It continues to run similarly to last year’s Coco, and may reach $200M in the US.

WELCOME TO MARWEN (DreamWorks/Universal) would have been a tough sell in any market, but lousy reviews doomed it to a $900K opening day and perhaps $3M for the weekend, and even with the holiday spark it may not get much past $10M by New Year’s.

A pair of prestige films expanded to the low end of wide release, neither looking like a breakout hit.  MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Focus/Universal), now at 795 theatres, is heading for a $2M weekend, considerably below the $3.9M that Darkest Hour earned at 806.  THE FAVOURITE (Fox Searchlight) widened to 790 theatres, and will likely be a bit below Mary.

MORTAL ENGINES (MRC/Universal) wheezed to a Friday that couldn’t hit $600K, down a horrific 80% from last Friday, and might manage to reach $2M for the weekend and $20M by the end of the holidays.  It’s a very expensive dead loss.

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."