2023 U.S. Box Office Crosses $9 Billion, Led By Universal; ‘Wonka’ Tops New Year’s Weekend With $30M – Monday Update

Movies

MONDAY AM writethru: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he’s delivering the motion picture industry a $9 billion-plus year at the domestic box office, a feat many thought was unimaginable with the lack of a mega-tentpole over the holiday, coupled by a Q4 impacted by the double strikes. The numbers were compiled from Comscore data and Deadline calculations. Comscore called 2023 at $9.03 billion yesterday.

It was a diversified crop of family and adult films over the holidays that got us there, including Warner Bros‘ trifecta of Wonka (which is leading the four-day New Year’s box office with $30M), Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (4-day $23.5M), and The Color Purple ($15M 4-day), as well as adult movies like The Boys in the Boat ($11.2M 4-day) and even YA romantic comedy Anyone But You ($11M 4-day).

As we told you a few days ago, 2024 is bound to shed about $1 billion for an $8 billion take due to a lower inventory of wide releases and Q1 sans several tentpoles.

“Hitting $9 billion is more than just about dollars and cents, it’s about the lessons learned in what was arguably one of the most significant and challenging years for the movie business,” Comscore Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “Moviegoers are the most powerful players in Hollywood and are providing actionable intelligence on a weekly basis to studios and creatives who can learn much from the unexpected success of films that were not even on the radar at the beginning of the year.”

“As a historic box office year comes to a close amidst the tumultuous backdrop of strikes, streaming and shifting audience tastes, the bottom line is that the theatrical experience remains an essential part of the entertainment ecosystem,” he added.

Hands down, without any question, Universal won the 2023 domestic box office with $1.93 billion by EOD Sunday, +18% from 2022, off such hits as Super Mario Bros Movie ($574.9M, 2nd highest-grossing film of the year), Oppenheimer ($326M), Fast X ($150.1M) and Five Nights at Freddy’s ($137.2M). In a slot that typically belongs to Disney, it’s the first time since 2015 that Universal has led the domestic box office.

Speaking of Disney, they’re second with $1.89 billion, including monies from 20th Century Studios and Searchlight (-2% from 2022). Yes, as was over-reported, it was a tough year for Disney with waning ticket sales for Marvel movies like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania ($214.5M) and the lowest-grossing title in Disney’s MCU, The Marvels, at $84.4M (however, not the lowest for Marvel, let’s not forget Marvel/20th’s Elektra with $24.4M) as well as Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny at $174.4M charting as the lowest-grossing in the franchise of all time. Quality over quantity is the mantra for the Mouse House moving forward, per Disney boss Bob Iger.

Warner Bros is third with $1.4 billion (+50% from 2022). The Burbank, CA lot delivered $277M stateside, $700M across its trifecta over the holidays. Exhibition is thankful, and I understand Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav was also a champ about putting three movies in theaters over Christmas and New Year’s. Despite the remainder of the Zack Snyder-born DC universe crashing 2023 between The Flash (largely due to the tabloid hijinks of star Ezra Miller), Shazam: Fury of the Gods and Aquaman 2, Warner’s count includes, of course, its highest-grossing movie ever —Barbie ($636.2M) which reps almost half of their box office 2024.

While Disney has moved some big movies out of 2024 including the Rachel Zegler-starring Snow White and Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Brave New World, look for Warners Bros to be the kingpin’s in 2024 with Dune: Part Two, Furiosa, Beetlejuice 2 and Joker: Folie a Deux. Everything is cyclical: Don’t count Disney out in the long, long run. Remember the Rich Ross-run reign of the studio with duds like John Carter ($73.3M)?

Uni’s total includes Focus Features, while Warners includes New Line.

Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione will be getting into global box office standings later on, but Universal has already crossed the $4 billion mark, making it the fourth time Uni has crossed that milestone, the previous years being 2015, 2017 and 2018. Disney crossed $4B global in August after a $4.9B global take in 2022.

Rival studios may have thrown rocks at Illumination/Universal’s animated movie Migration, but the joke is on them: The movie, which has a 72% fresh Rotten Tomatoes critics score, is posting a 4-day of $22M in third place for the weekend. By end of the day, Migration, with a domestic cume of $59.1M, will be 3% behind the running total of Disney bomb Wish ($61M). The final destination for these birds is north, not south, at $100M.

On average the top ten movies saw -40% drop in their Saturday to New Year’s Eve grosses. Today, New Year’s Day should see a +32% spike in grosses over Sunday.

New Year’s Weekend 4-day chart (as of Saturday):

Christmas week box office

1.) Wonka (WB) 4,115 (-98) theaters, Fri $8.7M (+33%) Sat $8.7M Sun $5.3M 3-day $22.7M (+26%), 4-day $30M/Total $140.6M/Wk 3

Through 18 days, Wonka is 6% ahead of 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns at same point in time (final domestic $171.9M), but he’s 6% behind 2005’s Johnny Depp-starring, Tim Burton-directed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (final U.S./Canada $206.4M).

2.) Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (WB) 3,787 (+81) theaters, Fri $6.75M Sat $7.5M Sun $4M 3-day $18.25M (-34%), 4-day $26.3M/Total $84.67M/Wk 2

Yes, this isn’t the strongest of DC movies, and you can say that there wasn’t a well-conceived sequel to the highest-grossing DC movie ever ($1.1 billion). I understand that Jason Momoa’s suggestions weren’t a hindrance as can happen when a big star big-foots a project, and I also hear that David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick’s additional story made up for any shortfalls in the first James Wan draft. Through 11 days, Aquaman 2 is already ahead of Marvel mess The Marvels ($84.4M) and well beyond DC dud Shazam: Fury of the Gods ($57.6M). Through 11 days, the sequel is pacing 5% behind DC’s other bomb from June 2023, The Flash, which finaled at $108.1M. A $150M final domestic take is being forecasted by distribution sources.

3.) Migration (Ill/Uni) 3,839 (+78) theaters, Fri $6.7M (+17%) Sat $6.3M Sun $3.88M Mon $4.99M 3-day $17M (+37%), 4-day $22M, Total $59.1M/ Wk 2

4.) The Color Purple (WB) 3,203 theaters, Fri $4.1M, Sat $5.2M Sun $2.4M 3-day $11.7M, 4-day $15M/ Total $47.3M/Wk 1

The eight-day total here is -38% behind 2012’s Les Miserables at same point its run (final domestic $148.8M), but Color Purple is 74% ahead of The Greatest Showman (granted an original musical that slept its way to $174.3M).

5.) Anyone But You (Sony) 3,055 theaters, Fri $3.3M (-3%) Sat $3.7M Sun $1.76M Mon $2.25M 3-day $8.4M (+40%), 4-day $11M, Total $27M/Wk 2

6.) Boys in the Boat (AMZ MGM) 2,557 theaters, Fri $2.7M Sat $3.09M Sun $2.55M Mon $2.8M 3-day $8.4M, 4-day $11.2M, Total $24.8M, Wk 1

7.) The Iron Claw (A24) 2,794 (+20) theaters, Fri $1.74M (-30%) Sat $1.9M Sun $1.4M 3-day $5M (+4%) 4-day $6.9M/Total $18.2M/Wk 2

8.) Ferrari (Neon) 2,386 theaters, Fri $1.38M Sat $1.53M Sun $1.15M 3-day $4.06M 4-day $5.2M Total $12.07M/Wk 2

We kept comping this Michael Mann movie to All the Money in the World because that was another holiday adult-skewing movie from an auteur, and boy did the dailies look alike. Ferrari is now -16% behind that Ridley Scott title, which ended domestic at $25.1M. Neon reportedly spent around $17M for the U.S. distribution rights and another $15M-plus to market. I’m informed by finance sources their U.S. portion of this movie will be fine after the downstream market. Neon won’t come out with black eyes on its end of this movie. Their commitment to the movie, much like STX’s, stemmed from wanting to enable a dream project by Mann, and also giving it a theatrical release (Ferrari was once destined to skip the big screen for a Showtime/Paramount+ streaming release). As far as the indie producers aka executive producers for this movie, the bond company and insurance company on this $96M-plus film are concerned — that’s another story. Neon has run a very supportive awards season campaign with a NY and L.A. premiere, and they’ll be more events into January.

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

9.) The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (LG) 1,660 (-849) theaters Fri $1.1M (-8%) Sat $1.15M Sun $630K 3-day $2.88M (-4%) 4-day $3.67M Total $160.6M/Wk 7

The Lionsgate prequel is currently at a 3.6x multiple off its $44.6M opening. The pic cleared the domestic gross of Harry Potter spinoff sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($159.5M).

10.) The Boy and the Heron (Gkids) 940 theaters Fri $864K Sat $945K Sun $695K 3-day $2.5M (-9%) 4-day $3.35M Total $36.8M/Wk 4

11.) Poor Things (Sea) 800 theaters, Fri $808K (-20%) Sat $921K Sun $525K Mon $646K 3-day $2.25M (+7%) 4-day $2.9M Total $10.9M/Wk 4

Other studio standings for 2023:

Sony$1B (+20% from 2022): Forty percent of the Culver City studio’s annual U.S./Canada box office comes from the third highest grossing movie of the year, the animated sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ($381.3M), proof that superhero fatigue doesn’t exist, and that original and great movies can break through to fans (A CinemaScore). The rest of the Sony slate was made up of counterprogramming aimed to get adults back in cinemas post-Covid, i.e., Apple’s Napoleon ($60M), The Equalizer 3 ($92.3M), A Man Called Otto ($64.2M) and the Jennifer Lawrence R-rated comedy No Hard Feelings ($50.4M). Those $100M-plus domestic hits projected by the industry for next year include Sony’s Ghostbusters – Frozen Empire, Bad Boys 4, Venom 3 and The Karate Kid.

Paramount$837.4M (-35% from 2022): The Melrose lot is down from last year due to Tom Cruise’s highest-grossing movie of his career on the 2022 ledger, Top Gun: Maverick ($718.7M). They owned four $100M-plus grossing titles in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One ($172.1M), Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (at $157M and $438.9M, it did what it needed to do to revive the long-in-the-tooth franchise), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem ($118.6M) and Scream VI ($108.1M). Say what you will about the dating and not lengthy booking of Imax screens on Mission, but where else would you date the movie knowing that Indiana Jones was on the schedule? (No one knew Indiana Jones would under-deliver.) Mission: Impossible 8‘s jump to Memorial Day weekend 2025 from June 2024 due to continued filming gets it a three-week Imax run as the movie was shot using the large-format exhibitor’s cameras. For all the slime flung at Paramount Global for being a hobbled entertainment conglom with ancient linear cable, everyone can just shut up and be quiet when it comes to the theatrical studio’s feature lineup in 2024 with six potential $100M-plus grossing movies: Bob Marley: One Love, If, A Quiet Place: Day One, Transformers One, Smile 2 and Gladiator 2.

Lionsgate

Lionsgate – $580.4M (+623% from 2022): The studio on a global basis has its first billion-dollar take in five years with just over $1.05B. It continued to extend and expand its most important franchises, releasing three successful new installments in 2023 with John Wick: Chapter 4 ($187.1M U.S., $440M WW), The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes ($322.7M) and Saw X ($111M WW).

Lionsgate also found success on a broad range of films embracing innovative marketing, alternative distribution strategies and business models. Successes include Plane ($74.6M WW), starring Gerard Butler, and Jesus Revolution ($54.2M), released through the studio’s pact with Kingdom Story Company; and Tim Story’s horror comedy The Blackening ($18.1M WW), released for the Juneteenth holiday with a sequel already in the works. The studio prides itself on being the largest supplier of films for independent global distribution, with nearly 50 multiplatform and limited titles released in 2023. By company ledgers, 92% of Lionsgate’s multiplatform and limited theatrical release titles have been profitable historically. If these dude action movies didn’t work, they wouldn’t keep releasing them. A recent highlight of their model is John Woo’s Silent Night. The movie was intended for both the theatrical and Premium VOD markets like previous successful Lionsgate releases Sisu and Retribution, but the low-budget acquisition delivered solid results for the studio due to its efficient business model.

Amazon MGM$270.3M (+164% from 2022): Movies like Creed III from MGM ($156.2M) were certainly headed for a theatrical release, but the streamer showed its return to theatrical releases with such Prime Video pivots as Air ($52.4M), and also posted solid arthouse business with the gothic romance thriller Saltburn from Oscar winner Emerald Fennell ($11.3M) and flyover state flick The Boys in the Boat ($24.8M and counting). Look out for Dwayne Johnson and Chris Evans’ Christmas action pic next year, Red One.

Variance – $216.4M. Variance was propelled by AMC’s foray into concert pics Taylor Swift: Eras Tour and Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé. The former became the highest-grossing movie of Q4 to date with $179.6M, and also the highest post-Labor Day opening in 2023 at $92.8M.

Angel Studios – $207.8M. Amid news of pre-bought tickets, empty theaters in weekend one, and a marketing push in right-wing circles, the faith-based distributor turned into an event-size player for Middle America with Sound of Freedom, its based-on-a-true story thriller about former Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard, who took rescuing abducted children around the globe into his own hands. The movie at $184.1M stateside repped 89% of Angel Studios’ annual box office. Hopefully its Lenten season Cabrini can provide cushion to what’s expected to be an overall dire Q1 for the industry at the B.O.

A24 $137.2M (+15% from 2022). One of the few distributors to own a SAG-AFTRA agreement for its slate during the actors strike, saw highs from Australian horror movie Talk to Me ($48.2M), Pricilla (Sofia Coppola’s second highest grossing movie stateside at $20.8M) and this holiday season’s The Iron Claw ($18M-plus and growing).

Other notes on 2023

AMC Theatres leads all exhibitors — of course, it is the biggest circuit — with $2.1 billion (+23% from 2022). Regal is second with $1.4 billion, +16% vs. 2022. Cinemark is third, also with $1.4 billion, +22% from 2022. The AMC Burbank will be the highest-grossing theater in the U.S. with around $22M in ticket sales, +25% over last year. AMC Empire in New York is the second highest-grossing location with $19.5M (+37% over 2022).

Los Angeles was the top market for moviegoing, with around $715M+ (8% total market share) per industry stats, with the New York City area second with $590M+ in ticket sales (6.6% total market share). Dallas was an amazing third with $271M+ in ticket sales (3% total market share).

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