Box Office: 'Aquaman 2' Leads Christmas Despite Disappointing Ticket Sales

Box Office: ‘Aquaman 2’ Leads Christmas Despite Disappointing Ticket Sales

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” didn’t give Hollywood much to be merry about at the Christmas box office.

The comic book sequel, starring Jason Momoa as the King of Atlantis and directed by James Wan, opened slightly below estimates with $27.7 million over the traditional weekend and a disappointing $40 million through the four-day holiday frame. With its $205 million price tag, “Aquaman 2” is shaping up to be the latest underperforming tentpole for Warner Bros. and DC following this year’s string of misfires, “The Flash” ($55 million debut), “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” ($30 million debut) and “Blue Beetle” ($25 million debut).

“Aquaman 2″ managed to lead over a series of newcomers, including Universal and Illumination’s animated family film “Migration,” the Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell-led romantic comedy “Anyone but You” and A24’s sports biopic “The Iron Claw,” starring Zac Efron. There was no shortage of options for moviegoers as three new releases — Warner’s musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” Neon’s racing drama “Ferrari” and director George Clooney’s inspirational story “The Boys in the Boat” — debuted on Christmas Day. (The studios behind those three films have yet to report opening day grosses.)

Movie theater owners have been optimistic about the number of new releases in the mix, but overall it’s been a lackluster holiday season without a surprise hit or potential billion-dollar blockbuster on the horizon.

“Volume is king,” says exhibitor Chris Randleman, the chief revenue officer of the Texas-based Flix Brewhouse chain. “Even though we don’t have an ‘Avatar 2,’ this year, the volume of film is lightyears ahead of last year. This will carry into January and should give us a solid start to 2024.”

As Randleman suggests, even if December releases start small at the box office, they tend to keep playing and playing into the new year. That was the case with 2018’s “Aquaman,” which kicked off with an unenthusiastic $67 million and ended its run with a mighty $335 million in North America (and $1.15 billion globally). But “The Lost Kingdom” entered theaters at a trying time for superhero movies.

China, once a massive market for superhero tentpoles, has largely given the cold shoulder to Hollywood movies, including “Aquaman 2.” It has generated $80 million internationally, bringing its global tally to a subdued $120 million. Along with negative reviews and mediocre audience scores, the big-budget sequel is struggling with its lame-duck status in the DC Extended Universe. Moviegoers have been less invested since it’s the final installment before DC’s new bosses, James Gunn and Peter Safran, reset the sprawling superhero universe… likely without the presence of Momoa’s ruler of the underwater kingdom.

Warner Bros.’ fantasy musical “Wonka” took second place with $18 million from 4,213 locations over the weekend and a better-than-expected $28 million through Monday. The prequel story, starring Timothée Chalamet as the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, has grossed $85.5 million domestically and an impressive $254.9 million worldwide to date.

“Migration” flocked to the No. 3 spot with $12.4 million from 3,708 theaters over the weekend and a modest $17.5 million through Monday. The film, written by Mike White and featuring the voice cast of Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks and Awkwafina, cost a reasonable $70 million. But the studio is hoping that “Migration” enjoys the staying power of recent family movies, such as “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and Pixar’s “Elemental. The adventure, about ducks who get lost as they head south for winter, has generated positive reviews and audience scores, which bodes well for its holiday run.

Sony’s R-rated “Anyone but You” debuted in fourth place, collecting $5.8 million from 3,055 theaters over the weekend and a softer-than-anticipated $8 million through Monday. It’s a bleak bow for a nationwide release, but the budget was an economical $25 million.

“The Iron Claw” landed at No. 6 with $4.8 million from 2,774 venues and $7.5 million through Monday. The movie cost $15 million and tells the tragic true story of the Von Erich family, a dynasty of professional wrestlers who were plagued with a series of tragedies.