'Aquaman 2' Box Office Opening Weekend Projections: Will Sequel Flop?

‘Aquaman 2’ Box Office Opening Weekend Projections: Will Sequel Flop?

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is one of four movies opening in theaters over the weekend. Which of the new releases will sink and which will swim at the box office?

Jason Momoa’s “Aquaman” sequel is expected to float to the top of charts in North America over fellow newcomers: Universal and Illumination’s animated “Migration,” Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell’s romantic comedy “Anyone but You” and A24’s sports biopic “The Iron Claw.” But the Warner Bros. comic book installment faces choppy waters. It’s targeting a soft $35 million to $40 million in its four-day debut (including Monday’s Christmas Day), which could make it the latest catastrophe in a terrible year for superhero movies.

December releases aren’t known to generate big opening weekends and instead tend to enjoy staying power through the new year. For example, 2018’s “Aquaman” collected an unspectacular $67 million to start but powered to a mighty $335 million in North America (and $1.15 billion globally). However, the $205 million-budgeted sequel arrives at a time that’s been unforgiving to many stories about Spandexed heroes — and “The Lost Kingdom” has been positioned as the final lame duck before DC’s new bosses, James Gunn and Peter Safran, reset the sprawling superhero universe. Already, the three DC movies to debut this year– “The Flash,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “Blue Beetle” — have flopped in spectacular fashion.

Warner Bros. has seemingly scaled back “Aquaman 2’s” marketing efforts, which likely still cost $100 million. The studio opted to mount a “fan screening” and “genre media and influencer” event in Los Angeles with just Momoa and director James Wan, rather than host a splashy red carpet premiere with the full cast, including Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Nicole Kidman. Reviews remain under embargo for the follow-up film, which sees Aquaman forced to protect Atlantis from devastation after an ancient power is unleashed on the underwater kingdom.

Movie theater marquees are getting more crowded on Christmas Day as Warner’s musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” Neon’s drama “Ferrari” and director George Clooney’s “The Boys in the Boat” enter the box office race. None of these movies are expected to break out in their opening weekends, leaving theater owners concerned about a lackluster holiday season. There’s no potential billion-dollar blockbuster, in the vein of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” to cap off 2023 and keep theaters busy in early 2024.

“Migration” is hoping to become the de facto choice for family audiences, though it’ll face competition from last weekend’s champion, “Wonka.” The Warner Bros. prequel, starring Timothee Chalamet as the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, is expected to add $21 million to $23 million in its second weekend of release. It has grossed $156 million worldwide to date.

Based on those estimates, “Wonka” will fly above “Migration,” which is aiming to bring in $12 million to $15 million in its first four days of release. It’s a decent start for original animation — especially if “Migration” has long legs (err, wings?) over the holidays. The film has already earned $14.3 million at the international box office.

“Migration” cost $70 million and hails from the animation empire behind “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Despicable Me” and its “Minion” spinoffs, “Sing” and “The Grinch.” It also has behind-the-camera pedigree with Mike White, the creator of “The White Lotus” and writer of “School of Rock,” who penned the comedy about a family of mallards who are heading south for the winter. Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Keegan-Michael Key and Awkwafina lead the voice cast.

“The Iron Claw,” a very different kind of family film, is targeting around $5 million to $6 million over the four days. “Anyone but You” is eyeing a similar single-digit start.

Zac Efron, who bulked up from his “High School Musical” days to play a WWE fighter, leads the cast of “The Iron Claw.” The well-reviewed film, written and directed by Sean Durkin (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”), tells the tragic true story of the Von Erich family, a dynasty of professional wrestlers who were plagued with a series of tragedies. The $16 million-budgeted drama is landing on 2,500 domestic screens, making it the rare A24 movie to open nationwide rather than roll out in limited release.

Elsewhere, Sony’s raunchy, R-rated “Anyone but You” is catering to Gen Z audiences, who know Sweeney from “Euphoria” and Powell from “Top Gun: Maverick.” The film cost $25 million and was co-financed by SK Global Entertainment and TSG Entertainment.

“Easy A” filmmaker Will Gluck directed “Anyone but You,” which follows two twenty-somethings who decide they’re not the right match despite an amazing first date. But when they find themselves at a destination wedding in Australia, they pretend to be the perfect couple to keep up appearances. The movie will be Hollywood’s latest test for R-rated comedies, which have landed in theaters this year to mixed results. “Cocaine Bear” and Jennifer Lawrence’s “No Hard Feelings” were modest successes for the genre, but Sony and Legendary’s “The Machine,” inspired by Bert Kreischer’s stand-up routine of the same name, missed the mark.