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On the weekend before Christmas, ‘Aquaman’ sequel drifts to first

AP Film Writer

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom ” led a crowd of new releases at the box office on the weekend before Christmas Monday. The DC and Warner Bros. superhero sequel starring Jason Momoa earned an estimated $28.1 million in its first three days of release in 3,706 locations in North America, according to studio estimates Sunday. By Monday it is projected to have around $40 million in domestic ticket sales.

Despite many new offerings — including the family friendly animated film “ Migration,” the R-rated romantic comedy “Anyone But You,” the wrestling tragedy “ The Iron Claw ” and a ghostly tearjerker in “ All of Us Strangers ” — this will go down as a quieter pre-holiday frame at the box office. Moviegoing audiences perhaps just had other priorities than going to the cinema.

It is never great for Hollywood or theaters when Christmas Eve falls on a prime weekend day, but the last time Christmas was on a Monday, in 2017, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” dominated the four-day charts with $71.5 million from its second weekend.

On Christmas Day, which often brings big crowds back to the theaters, they’ll be joined by more new films, including the big budget musical adaptation of “ The Color Purple,” Michael Mann’s racing film “ Ferrari ” and George Clooney’s adaptation of the rowing drama “ The Boys in the Boat.” All should get a boost between Christmas and New Years, too, a traditionally lucrative time for movie theaters.

But none will compare some of the biggest holiday earners, like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avatar” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” It was not lost on social media that this was the weekend that Patty Jenkins’ Star Wars movie “Rogue Squadron” was supposed to come out.

“Seven openers in the course of four days is unusual,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is estimated to have cost around $200 million to produce, not including marketing and promotion costs. Including international estimates at $80 million through Monday, “Aquaman” is heading toward a $120 million global debut.

The first film opened to $67.8 million in 2018 and went on to make almost $1.2 billion globally. Dergarabedian noted that the first film also earned more than 70% of its box office internationally.

The ”Aquaman” opening ends a tricky, transitional year for DC superhero films, full of box office disappointments including “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “The Flash” and “Blue Beetle,” as the studio phases out this slate to welcome in James Gunn’s vision for the future. “Aquaman 2” was the final “holdover” of the previous administration.

Its studio, Warner Bros. also has the No. 2 movie of the weekend, “ Wonka ” and one of the major Christmas openings, “The Color Purple,” a buffet of big movies that was sorely needed by theaters – especially without no new movie from the Walt Disney Company or Paramount. By Monday, Warner Bros. will likely have three spots in the top five.

“Warners has something for everybody” said Jeff Goldstein, the studio’s head of domestic distribution. ”With lots of holiday time to see all three.”

“Wonka,” in its second weekend, earned an estimated $17.7 million over the weekend and $26.1 million including Monday, bringing its total domestic earnings to $83.6 million.

Third place went to Illumination and Universal’s “Migration,” a PG-rated animated adventure about a family of mallards traveling South. Voice actors include Kumail Najiani, Elizabeth Banks and Awkwafina. It earned an estimated $12.3 million from 3,761 locations in North America through Sunday, which will likely increase to $17.1 million by the end of Monday. Its global total through Sunday is sitting at an estimated $34.3 million, and it could soar with kids out of school.

“’Migration’ flew into theaters with really, really exciting audience reactions pointing to what we think won’t just be a fantastic run throughout the holidays but also into the next year,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s head of domestic distribution.

Aside from Disney’s re-releases of some of its Pixar titles early in the year, there will be no new direct competition until “Kung Fu Panda 4” comes out on March 8.

In fifth place was the Telugu-language action film “Salaar: Part 1—Ceasefire,” which made $5.5 million from only 802 theaters. The top 10 was rounded out by another Indian film, the Hindi-language “Dunki,” which earned $2.7 million from 686 locations. The top 10 also included two Japanese films in “Godzilla Minus One” and “The Boy and the Heron.”

Female audiences helped the Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney romantic comedy “Anyone But You” land a fourth place start with an estimated $6.2 million from its first three days and nearly $9 million including Monday. Directed by Will Gluck, the movie that was loosely inspired by “Much Ado About Nothing” divided critics sharply with some crying foul and others celebrating the return of a beloved genre that has recently seemed relegated to Netflix. Audiences gave it a B+ CinemaScore.

A24’s “The Iron Claw,” about the tragedy-stricken Von Erich wrestling family, opened on 2,774 screens riding a wave of good reviews praising Zac Efron’s transformative lead performance. The studio estimates its three-day earnings to be $5.1 million, which should go up to $7.5 million by the end of Monday. It got an A- CinemaScore from audiences, which is the highest ever for the studio behind “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” The studio also has Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest” on six screens where it made $89,931 over the weekend.

Searchlight Pictures’ “All of Us Strangers,” starring Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, opened in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles this weekend with a strong $33,034 per/theater average. Yorgos Lanthimos’ gothic black comedy “Poor Things” also expanded to 800 theaters where it earned $2.1 million.

“No matter where the box office ends up on the 31, whether it hits $9 billion or is just close, this is just a boom time to be a moviegoer,” Dergarabedian said. “The top 10 reads like a greatest hits of every type of cinema.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures including Christmas Day will be released Tuesday.

1. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” $28.1 million.

2. “Wonka,” $17.7 million.

3. “Migration,” $12.3 million.

4. “Anyone But You,” $6.2 million.

5. “Salaar: Part 1-Ceasefire,” $5.5 million.

6. “The Iron Claw,” $5.1 million.

7. “The Hunger Games: The Ballard of Songbirds & Snakes,” $3.2 million

8. “The Boy and the Heron,” $3.2 million.

9. “Godzilla Minus One,” $2.7 million.

10. “Dunki,” $2.7 million.

Article Topic Follows: AP-National

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