Wonka Reigns At Box Office, But The Color Purple Also Helps To End The Year On A High Note

A trio of new releases hit theaters on Christmas Day, and while box office numbers overall marked a satisfying end to the year, the new offerings weren’t able to crack the Top 3 to pull ahead of the previous week’s winners. Wonka reclaimed the top spot in its third weekend, earning another $23.95 million, while Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and Migration took silver and bronze, respectively. The Color Purple exceeded expectations, and second-weekend offerings like Anyone But You also contributed to the year’s revenue sneaking past $9 billion for the first time post-pandemic.

Check out the Top 10 chart to see where The Color Purple, The Boys in the Boat and Ferrari landed in their opening weekend, and then we’ll break it all down below. 

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Box office graphic

<span class="credit">(Image credit: Warner Bros.)</span>
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1. Wonka $23,950,000 $134,603,000 2 4,115
2. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom $19,500,000 $77,845,000 1 3,787
3. Migration $17,230,000 $54,322,645 3 3,839
4. The Color Purple* $13,000,000 $45,300,000 N/A 3,203
5. Anyone But You $9,000,000 $25,085,000 4 3,055
6. The Boys in the Boat* $8,317,000 $21,915,000 N/A 2,557
7. The Iron Claw $5,044,847 $16,359,994 6 2,774
8. Ferrari* $4,063,910 $10,920,617 N/A 2,386
9. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes $2,900,000 $159,867,500 7 1,660
10. The Boy and the Heron $2,504,418 $35,968,236 8 940

Wonka Wins The Holidays, While The Color Purple Is Expected To Reach Big Milestone 

Timothée Chalamet’s Willy Wonka origin story continues to draw people in, as Wonka increased ticket sales from its second to third weekends by 33 percent (per The Numbers). Word-of-mouth advertising likely helped holiday moviegoers with the decision of which ticket to buy, too, as the movie holds a 91% Fresh audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Our own Mike Reyes called it a “scrumdiddlyumptious feat” in his review of Wonka, rating the film 4.5 stars out of 5, and some of us even prefer it to Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

The film continues to get a big boost from international crowds as well, and when you add the $134.6 million Wonka’s made in North America to the $244.4 million internationally, Paul King’s fantasy has cracked the global Top 20 movies of the year, with its $379 million good for 19th place. But that wasn’t the only big win in the musical category this weekend. 

Fantasia Barrino in The Color Purple

<span class="credit">(Image credit: Warner Bros.)</span>

The Color Purple may be settling for fourth place when all the weekend ticket sales are tallied, but Blitz Bazawule’s remake was certainly a winner on Christmas Day. The ensemble musical nearly doubled opening-day expectations, earning $18.1 million on December 25.  

As of Sunday its earnings were estimated at $45.3 million domestically and the coming-of-age film was expected to break the $50 million mark by the end of the New Year’s weekend (per THR). This would mark a huge milestone for the newest adaptation of Alice Walker’s classic novel and would also put it into the Top 50 highest-grossing movies of 2023 after just a week in theaters. 

Expectations were high going into The Color Purple’s debut, with early screenings drawing rave reviews for the musical and its talented cast that includes Taraji P. Henson, Fantasia Barrino, Halle Bailey, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo and Corey Hawkins. It doesn’t seem like moviegoers were disappointed either, as the film currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 95% Fresh and is graded an A on CinemaScore

The week’s other new releases — George Clooney’s The Boys in the Boat and Michael Mann’s Ferrari — also beat their first-day projections to end the weekend at No. 6 and No. 8, respectively. We’ll have to see how those numbers translate into their sophomore outings. 

Migration, Anyone But You, The Iron Claw See Impressive Week 2 Gains 

If it seems like “better-than-expected” is the running theme for this weekend at the theater, that’s especially true for movies in their second week of release. Last week, Illumination’s Migration had the weakest opening of any film produced by the company, but it rebounded in a big way on New Year’s weekend. The ducky animated adventure increased week-over-week revenue by 38% for a total domestic gross of $54.3 million. What’s more, it crossed the nine-digit mark worldwide, earning $100.8 million after adding in international numbers.

While it’s unusual to see an increase in a movie’s second week (undoubtedly spurred by people having more free time and kids being out of school for the holidays), it’s not surprising to see Migration spring back in such a way, as December animated releases often have long legs in their theatrical runs. We’ll have to see how its success compares to its Illumination predecessors like Sing 2 and Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, which also saw slow starts.

Similarly to Migration, Zac Efron’s professional wrestling biopic The Iron Claw and Anyone But You starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell got boosts from the holiday crowd after disappointing opening rounds. Will Gluck’s romantic comedy, in particular, saw a 50% increase in ticket sales, accumulating $25 million after 10 days in theaters. The Iron Claw saw a 4% rise, putting it at $16.4 million in the same timeframe — seemingly in a good place to earn back its estimated $15 million budget (which doesn’t include marketing costs).  

Unfortunately, not all second-week releases saw an increase in audience. After Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom failed to make a splash, despite coming out on top at last weekend’s box office, the movie fell another 30% in its second effort. Normally, that small of a Week 2 decline would be cause for celebration, but after what we’ve seen the holiday crowds do to the numbers, to say Jason Momoa’s DCEU swan song is underperforming domestically is an understatement. Internationally the waters aren’t as dark, however. The film has earned $173.6 million overseas for a global total of $251.4 million. 

2023 Goes Out On A High Note 

So while the future looks promising for 2024 musicals like Mean Girls but a little murky for upcoming superhero movies like Deadpool 3 and a Sony Spider-Man Universe trio, 2023 is ending on a high note that didn’t always seem like it was in the cards for the box office. Deadline reports that this weekend’s estimated $281.4 million in box office revenue is up 14% from the same period in 2022.

Ticket sales for the calendar year surpassed $9 billion for the first time in the post-pandemic era — a 20% increase over last year but still 20% below 2019’s North American earnings. Will 2024 continue the upward trend? Memory and Night Swim are set to kick things off on the 2024 movie release calendar, so be sure to come back to CinemaBlend next week for analysis on what it all means. 


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