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‘Aquaman,’ ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ and ‘Bumblebee’: Merry Christmas Box Office

Thanks to "The Grinch" and "Green Book," Universal will have more than "Marwencol" in its stocking.

Aquaman

“Aquaman”

Warner Bros.

D.C. Comics’ “Aquaman” dominated the weekend, particularly after already grossing $370 million overseas before its domestic debut at $72 million for the weekend. With the addition of some additional shows earlier in the week, it’s more than $10 million above the combined numbers for the four other new wide openers.

Nevertheless, “Mary Poppins Returns” ($31 million in five days) is likely to thrive in the coming week, as is Paramount’s “Transformers” spin-off “Bumblebee ($21 million for the weekend). The Jennifer Lopez-starring rom-com “Second Act” could improve (off a $6.5 million start). Only Robert Zemeckis’ “Welcome to Marwen,” with a disastrous $2.4 million, won’t revive.

The pre-Christmas weekend is always one of the toughest to analyze. It’s not prime moviegoing time, yet often opens some of the biggest films of the year. The weekend’s trajectory changes year by year, based on how the calendar falls; last year saw Christmas Eve, when many theaters partially or totally close, fall on Sunday (this year, Monday). Premature judgments can be made; last year, “The Greatest Showman” was regarded as on life support with only $13.4 million for five days. It went on to gross $175 million.

So past might be little more than prologue, with the real evidence showing Tuesday, and even more the day after Christmas. Not all films are open: “Vice” and “Holmes and Watson” start on Tuesday. They will further change theater schedules and knock out some films as the biggest eight-day stretch (through January 1) begins.

The weekend is only slightly down from last year, when the second weekend of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” scored $72 million. However, the calendar again meant Sunday was weaker than this year’s should be, making the drop a bit more noticeable.

Aquaman Jason Momoa

“Aquaman”

That said, numbers had better improve for the studios involved. The top three openers cost $430 million to make. “Aquaman” was the most expensive ($200 million estimated) but also the likeliest to make a profit. With the holidays also aiding it in territories where it’s already opened, this looks like a breakout coup for D.C. Comics. It’s been mainly a Superman and Batman provider, with only “Wonder Woman” among the nine top grossing (adjusted) films among their franchises.

And “Wonder Woman” was a 50/50 domestic/foreign share, coming in worldwide over $800 million. “Aquaman” should reach the $200 million-$250 million level in North America (with more possible), but don’t be surprised if it lands ahead of “Wonder Woman” in total gross.

“Mary Poppins Returns”

Many observers thought Disney’s sequel to its iconic “Mary Poppins” (the most beloved and honored of their live-action family films) might end up the biggest of this year’s December releases. Domestically, it still could come close. That’s where the X factor of Xmas comes in.

Unlike last year’s pre-Christmas opener, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” “Poppins” is a film that shouldn’t have been expected to show its full appeal before December 25. “Jungle,” along with its family/comedy appeal, had Dwayne Johnson and other older, non-family audience elements to draw viewers in.

The early date also got audiences in to help spread word of mouth and initial indications are positive. The A- Cinemascore is the same as “Jumanji,” which ended up grossing ultimately eight times its initial five days. And “Poppins” went up 29 percent Saturday, compared to the 19 percent uptick of “Jumanji.” Still, with a $130 million production cost and uncertain international appeal, these optimistic signs need to be realized for this presumed smash to make any sort of significant profit.

Left to right: Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie and Bumblebee in BUMBLEBEE, from Paramount Pictures.

“Bumblebee”

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Also with an A- score, “Bumblebee” did nearly as well as “Poppins” for the weekend. The “Transformers” franchise has increasingly become an international sell (“The Last Knight” last year took in nearly 80 percent of its gross overseas, with domestic only $130 million).

With both a younger and more female appeal (Hailee Steinfeld is the lead) and the best reviews in the series (as well as the first not directed by Michael Bay), it survived its head-to-head versus “Aquaman” and looks poised to benefit from the holidays. Its initial take was $31 million, and those grosses don’t include still to come openings in five of the top territories in the world.

Leah Remini and Jennifer Lopez star in SECOND ACT.

“Second Act”

Courtesy of STXfilms

“Second Act” is the lowest budget of the new releases at $16 million. It stars Jennifer Lopez who is mistakenly promoted into a high-finance position, with romantic entanglements and comedy along the way. It’s a reasonable counter-programming move by STX, even with no single more female-appeal title this season. But this will need more evidence before its success can be determined.

In terms of new releases, Universal is having as awful a Christmas as anyone can imagine. “Mortal Engines” dropped 77 percent from its bad opening last weekend. “Welcome to Marwen” made the “Engines” look good by comparison. Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of the acclaimed documentary “Marwencol” took in only $2.4 million. It also likely was slotted to hope word of mouth. The reviews and B- score look to defeat those bets.

The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) discovers the perils of stealing Christmas in "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch" from Illumination.

“The Grinch”

Photo Credit: Illumination and U

But Universal will survive, and more, because it has “The Grinch” in reserve. Normally it would be off most screens and lose the additional bounty Christmas offers. Instead, the studio bailed on “Mortal Engines” (most theaters are down to token shows already), and opened “Marwen” in under 2,000 theaters. “Grinch” still has nearly 2,800, grossed $8 million for the weekend, and looks to easily reach $300 million domestic. That might be the best of any film released the second half of this year.

Universal also has “Green Book,” now able to sustain itself in most of its best-grossing theaters. It will get through the holidays and still be positioned to return in a wider break mid-January when expected Oscar nominations come through.

Last weekend’s #1 “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony) dropped 53 percent, seasonally unsurprising, even less so with so much opening next weekend. It has taken in $64 million so far, and appears to have enough momentum to rise quite a bit higher in the upcoming weeks.

“Mary, Queen of Scots” was a surprise entry into the Top 10, with $2.2 million in 795 theaters. That could be its top total in terms of placement, but expect the gross to climb. The quick move is totally holiday-oriented, and shows how even in a congested period there is room for an appropriate more limited film. Fox Searchlight’s “The Favourite” is close behind.

The Top 10

1. Aquaman (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 55; Est. budget: $200 million

$67,400,000 in 4,125 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $16,339,000; Cumulative: $72,100,000

2. Mary Poppins Returns (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 65; Est. budget: $130 million

$22,235,000 in 4,090 theaters; PTA: $5,436; Cumulative: $31,050,000

3. Bumblebee (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 66; Est. budget: $102 million

$21,000,000 in 3,550 theaters; PTA: $5,915; Cumulative: $21,000,000

4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$16,700,000 (-53%) in 3,813 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,380; Cumulative: $64,800,000

5. The Mule (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$9,950,000 (-43%) in 2,656 theaters (+38); PTA: $3,746; Cumulative: $35,653,000

6. The Grinch (Universal) Week 7; Last weekend #3

$8,180,000 (-30%) in 2,780 theaters (-900); PTA: $2,942; Cumulative: $253,219,000

7. Second Act (STX) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 49; Est. budget: $16 million

$6,501,000 in 2,607 theaters; PTA: $2,494; Cumulative: $6,501,000

8. Ralph Breaks the Internet (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #4

$4,599,000 (-50%) in 2,495 theaters (-866); PTA: $1,843; Cumulative: $162,094,000

9. Welcome to Marwen (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic: 40; Est. budget: $39 million

$2,358,000 in 1,911 theaters; PTA: $1,234; Cumulative: $2,358,000

10. Mary, Queen of Scots (Focus) Week 3; Last weekend #17

$2,240,000 (+220%) in 795 theaters (+729); PTA: $2,818; Cumulative: $3,545,000

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