February 2, 2023

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‘Avatar 2,’ ‘Megan’ Movie Leads Box Office

3 min read

Movie theater operators have gratitude for Navi and the new queen of artificial intelligence.

January tends to be a slow time of the year at the box office. Yet James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” and Universal’s viral horror movie “M3GAN” continue to slay in North America, with three new nationwide releases over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

“Avatar 2” ranked first, for the fifth weekend in a row, with $31.1 million from 4,045 theaters in the traditional three-day period and an estimated $38.5 million through Monday. How popular is “The Way of Water” at the box office? Well, to put those numbers into perspective, the science-fiction epic grossed more in its fifth weekend of release than many pandemic-era movies have in their opening weekends. So far, the mega-budget Disney and 20th Century tentpole has made $570 million in North America and a staggering $1.89 billion worldwide. It already ranks as the seventh-biggest global release in history and could eventually unseat 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which came in at No. 6 with $1.91 billion.

Meanwhile, “M3GAN” is in second place with 17.9 million from 3,605 theaters over the weekend and an estimated $21.2 million as of Monday, down 40% from its debut. These are killer results for “M3GAN,” which cost $12 million to produce and has raised $59 million to date.

In terms of new offerings, Sony’s “A Man Called Auto,” a tearjerker starring Tom Hanks as a starving widower, had a successful wide release, taking in $12.6 million from 3,802 theaters in its traditional weekend and an estimated $15 million through Monday. Those ticket sales were good enough for fourth place, behind Universal’s animated adventure “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which was particularly strong over the holiday weekend. The family film added $13.4 million over the weekend and $17.3 million through Monday, bringing its domestic tally to $110 million.

After two weeks in limited release, “A Man Called Otto” earned $21.2 million. It’s one of the rare pandemic-era films to effectively keep pace with a traditional platform rollout aimed at adult audiences, allowing “Auto Called Auto” to generate positive buzz.

“It’s a very good opening for a character-driven comedy drama, with a nice turnout from older moviegoers,” David A. said Gross, who runs movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research

The Warner Bros. remake of Gerard Butler’s action thriller “Plane” and “House Party” also opened this weekend, landing fifth and sixth on the domestic box office charts, respectively.

“Planes” opened the weekend with $10 million from 3,023 theaters and an estimated $11.6 million through Monday, a modest if unremarkable start for a roughly $25 million-budget film. The Lionsgate release, starring Butler as a pilot who rescues his passengers from a lightning strike, only to discover things are about to get worse, was awarded a “B+” Cinemascore from audiences. Early ticket buyers were predominantly older men, as 77% of the crowd was over 25 and 55% male.

“House Party,” meanwhile, blazed through the weekend with $3.8 million and an estimated $4.5 million through Monday. A reboot of the 1990 comedy classic was commissioned for HBO Max, but the studio decided to release it theatrically. With seemingly little publicity and disappointing reviews (Rotten Tomatoes has 25% of it), “House Party” struggled to attract audiences to the big screen. Hopefully, at least at Warner Bros., the film will be a big draw when it hits streaming. The theatrical release, according to Franchise Entertainment Research’s Gross, “is designed to raise the profile of the film before it goes to HBO. [Max]”

More to come…

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