'Wonka' Wins New Year's Eve Box Office Battle, 'Aquaman 2' Sinks

The holiday season's biggest hit, musical fantasy “Wonka,” topped the box office on New Year's Day, ending 2023 on a sweet note. The film, which stars Timothée Chalamet as a very young Willy Wonka, grossed $22.7 million over the weekend and $29.5 million over the four-day holiday. That brings the domestic total to $140.2 million, a strong result for a $125 million production. Worldwide, Warner Bros. released around $400 million.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” continued to flop at the box office, dragging the superhero adventure to a watery grave. The film grossed $18.3 million over the weekend and $23.5 million over four days. That's good enough for second place, edging out “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdoms” domestic haul to a respectable $81.8 million. Some of the pain is compensated internationally, with the film's worldwide gross exceeding $250 million. But the film, this It was a complicated production, cost more than $200 million to produce and tens of millions more to market. “Aquaman 2” will struggle to turn a profit as theaters keep half of ticket sales. The first “Aquaman” grossed more than $1 billion worldwide (albeit helped by China, which has been less hospitable to Hollywood movies) and it was a cruel decision. The film concludes the DC Extended Universe, which has failed in its attempt to replicate the success Marvel once enjoyed before Warner Bros. came into favor with their comic book movies. Newly installed DC heads James Gunn and Peter Safran are tasked with rebooting the company's approach to bringing the Caped Crusaders to the big screen. The good news is that Gunn's most recent film, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is one of the rare recent superhero movies to score commercially. Now, Gunn is trying to recapture the magic with a new Superman film.

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In third place, Universal and Illumination's “Migration” earned $17 million over the weekend and $22 million over the four-day holiday. The animated adventure won't hit the level of Illumination's “Sing” or “Despicable Me,” but it's relatively cheap to make on a roughly $70 million budget. The hope is that the film will keep some momentum going into the post-holiday season, when there aren't many kid-centric movies.

“The Color Purple” and “Anybody But You” rounded out the top five. Warner Bros. produced the musical version of Alice Walker's classic novel “The Color Purple,” which grossed $11.7 million over the weekend and will take in $14.8 million for the four-day holiday. Its domestic gross is $47.1 million. The film has received critical acclaim and is expected to be a major award season contender. “Nobody But You,” a romantic comedy with Glenn Powell and Sidney Sweeney, was not well received by critics. The film grossed $8.7 million over the weekend and $11 million over the four-day weekend. Domestically, its gross would be $27.1 million. It's a lackluster decision, but Sony Pictures didn't spend much to produce the release, going with a $25 million budget.

Overall, the 2023 domestic box office is projected to reach $9 billion, according to ComScore. That's an improvement over the $7.4 billion in total ticket sales from 2022, though it trails the $11.4 billion in revenue from 2019, the last pre-Covid year. The industry is recovering from the pandemic, but it has yet to regain its momentum.

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