Wonka is No 1 at North American box office again as 2024 gets off to a slower start

Timothee Chalamet and Wonka topped the North American box office charts for the third time in its four weekends in theatres. Warner Bros’ family-oriented musical added US$14.4 million (S$19.1 million) in ticket sales according to studio estimates on Sunday (Jan 7), bringing its total domestic grosses to US$164.7 million.

“Wonka is following in the tradition of a film like The Greatest Showman,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. That Hugh Jackman musical opened under US$9 million in December 2017 and went on to gross US$435 million globally.

“Wonka is a perfect crowd pleaser released at the perfect time and it’s going to ride that wave into January,” Dergarabedian said. “It’s an opportune time for it to be in the marketplace.”

After finishing 2023 on a high note, 2024 is getting off to a slower start than last year, down around 16 per cent, with the Universal/Blumhouse horror Night Swim as the only major new offering in theatres. The movie stars Wyatt Russell and Kerry Condon as a couple with a sinister, supernatural swimming pool.

Night Swim drew in an estimated US$12 million in its first weekend in 3,250 theatres in North America against a reported US$15 million production budget. Including international showings in 36 markets, Night Swim is heading towards a US$17.7 million global debut.

“Not only did it perform really well at the box office, but it’s going to make us look at every swimming pool with a little more trepidation,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s head of domestic distribution.

Horror movies are largely critic-proof, but with fairly negative reviews and a C CinemaScore rating, it’s unlikely to repeat the viral success of last year’s demon doll movie M3GAN.

“We don’t have Avatar: The Way Of Water, which totally dominated the box office a year ago, or M3GAN, which made that a bigger weekend,” said Dergarabedian. “But it’s a bit early to call it in terms of how the year is going to turn out.”

Warner Bros and Universal placed third and fourth on the charts as well. Warner Bros’ DC superhero movie Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom earned US$10.6 million in its third weekend, bumping its domestic tally just over the US$100 million mark. Universal’s animated Migration added US$10.3 million, bringing its running domestic total to US$77.8 million.

Sony’s Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney romantic comedy Anyone But You landed in fifth place with US$9.5 million, up 9 per cent from last weekend. The movie has grossed US$43.7 million to date.

Cineplexes are full of awards contenders, including The Color Purple, The Iron Claw and Poor Things, and the Golden Globes broadcast Sunday night might help spread awareness for those and other films.

“The Golden Globes are like a three-hour infomercial for the industry,” Dergarabedian said. “There’s no downside to having a very high profile telecast that puts a spotlight on the movies.”

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