‘Wonka’ ends the year No. 1 at the box office

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NEW YORK (AP) — Hollywood capped off an up-and-down 2023 with “Wonka” regaining the top spot at the box office, strong sales for “The Color Purple” and a total of $9 billion in ticket sales that improved from 2022 revenue but fell by about $2 billion dollars compared to pre-pandemic norms.

This year, the New Year's weekend box office lacked a true blockbuster. (This time last year, “Avatar: The Way of Water” was flooding theaters.) Instead, a wide range of films, including “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” “The Boys in The Boat”, “Migration”, “Ferrari”, “The Iron Claw” and “Anyone But You” – were looking to break into the corridor of the most lucrative box office of the year.

The first choice, however, remained “Wonka”, Paul King's musical comedy with Timothée Chalamet in the role of young Willy Wonka. In its third weekend, the Warner Bros. release. collected about $24 million Friday through Sunday and $31.8 million when factoring in Monday holiday estimates. This brings the film's domestic total to $142.5 million.

This beat Warner Bros. own “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”, which, like previous DC superhero films, is in trouble. James Wan's “Aquaman” sequel starring Jason Momoa grossed $19.5 million in its second weekend, bringing its two-week haul to a modest $84.7 million, including estimates of New Year's Day.

The first “Aquaman,” which ultimately topped $1.1 billion worldwide, grossed $215.4 million over a similar period in 2018, more than double that of the sequel. Internationally, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” added $50.5 million.

Weekend sales only tell part of the story this time of year. From Christmas to New Years, when children are out of school and many adults are not working, every day is like a Saturday for film distributors.

“The Color Purple” Blitz Bazawule's adaptation of the 2005 musical from the novel by Alice Walker, debuted Monday and topped all Christmas movies with $18 million. During the week, Warner Bros. released grossed $50 million, including $13 million from Friday to Sunday. It's a great start to the crowd-pleasing film starring Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson and Danielle Brooks. Audiences gave it an “A” CinemaScore.

The approximately $100 million production, which Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones (all from the 1985 film) are producers, is expected to perform well throughout awards season. He is nominated for several Golden Globes and is expected to be in the Oscar shortlist.

“We saw this opportunity to expand at Christmas because there were so few films and we were confident the film would be well received,” said Jeffrey Goldstein, head of distribution at Warner Bros. “Going into the competitive landscape so thin in January and February, the excitement of awards season could really help spark bigger box office.

Despite a blockbuster-free holiday schedule, the final weekend of the year pushed the industry to surpass $9 billion in box office revenue for the year in U.S. and Canadian theaters for the first time since before the pandemic. Full-year ticket sales were up 21% from 2022, according to data firm Comscore.

Yet it was a target that seemed more easily accessible during the era. Barbenheimer's summer peaks when “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” were both breaking box office records.

The enormous success of these two films changed the trajectory of Hollywood in 2023, as did the Month-long actor and writer strikes. These forced the postponement of certain major films (notably “Dune: Part Two” ), diminishing an already disparate fall lineup with few guaranteed ticket sellers. One exception was the last minute addition of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” which set a new record for concert films.

This year, Hollywood needed Swift and every penny to reach $9 billion. He crossed that threshold on Saturday, with a day to spare. That total, however, still isn't close to the $11 billion-plus that predated the pandemic. The number of wide releases in 2023 was about 20 films lower than in 2019.

Production delays caused by strikes could have an even greater impact in 2024. Several blockbuster releases have already been postponed until at least the following year, including the “Mission: Impossible” and “Spider-Verse” sequels. After a difficult year for Marvel and a series of less predictable successes, Hollywood will have to I hope it can adapt to the changing tastes of the public – and that another “Barbie” is hiding somewhere.

“It’s an $11 billion business. We’re working our way back,” Goldstein said. “Next year will be a big challenge because of the strikes. But we see very clearly that in 2023, when there are films that people want to see, they will come. »

Meanwhile, a slew of releases sought to capitalize on the holidays – and most succeeded.

“This crop of seven large-scale publications at the end of the year allowed us to surpass the $9 billion mark,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “This last stage of the year allowed us to better understand what the public is looking for. These are films big and small. They are different types of films.

Even though “Wonka” has established itself as the family film chosen for the holidays, the Universal Pictures film “Migration” also attracts young audiences. The animated film from “Minions” creator Illumination raked in $17.2 million from 3,839 theaters in its second weekend and $59.4 million since its opening.

“The Boys in the Boat” the sports drama, directed by George Clooney, has grossed $24.6 million since its December 25 release. Amazon's MGM Studios release, about the American men's crew at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, was not a hit with critics (58% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences gave it credit an “A” CinemaScore. “The Boys in the Boat,” which cost about $40 million to make, could hold up well in the coming weeks.

Although romantic comedies have largely migrated to streaming platforms, Sony Pictures' “Anyone But You” proves that the genre can still work in theaters. The film, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, raked in $9 million in its second weekend, bringing its total to $27.6 million through Monday.

Sean Durkin's wrestling drama “The Iron Claw” also works well. The A24 film, starring Zac Efron, Holt McCallany and Jeremy Allen White, has grossed $18 million since its Dec. 22 release, including $5 million over the three-day weekend. The film dramatizes the tragic story of the Von Erich family.

Michael Mann's “Ferrari” a project the director had been looking to make for three decades, has grossed $10.9 million since its theatrical debut Monday, including $4.1 million for the weekend. While this is one of indie distributor Neon's biggest debuts, it's not at all what a film that cost nearly $100 million needs to turn a profit.

The film, starring Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari, received critical acclaim but seems likely to follow Mann's previous film, 2015's “Blackhat” ($19.6 million worldwide against a budget of 70 million dollars), as a commercial disappointment.

Estimated ticket sales Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final national figures will be released on Monday.

1. “Wonka,” $24 million.

2. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” $19.5 million.

3. “Migrations”, $17.2 million.

4. “The Color Purple,” $13 million.

5. “Anyone But You,” $9 million.

6. “The Boys in the Boat,” $8.3 million.

7. “The Iron Claw”, $5 million.

8. “Ferrari”, $4.1 million.

9. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents,” $2.9 million.

10. “The Boy and the Heron,” $2.5 million.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle at: http://jakecoyleAP

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