‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Stays On Top With $45 Million, Races To $517 Million Domestic & $1.7 Billion Worldwide To Become 7th Highest Global Grosser Ever; ‘M3GAN’ Smashes Expectations With $30 Million Start
While Avatar: The Way of Water remains the major box office story one week into the new year and should continue to dominate in the weeks ahead, this weekend the film received a worthy companion to help power the January box office. The sci-fi horror film M3GAN, which comes from the lucrative Blumhouse/James Wan partnership, smashed expectations to boast a frighteningly good $30.2 million opening. That wasn’t enough to dethrone James Cameron’s latest epic, which grossed $45 million in its fourth weekend, but the two films were able to carry an overall box office of $104 million. It’s the first weekend since July where two films grossed above $20 million, the sixth weekend since July where the overall box office hit the nine-digits, and the second time since July that two weekends in a row did so. Unfortunately, the top two films made up 72% of the overall box office, and just one other film even grossed above $5 million (compare this to Jan 10-12, 2020 when the entire top ten was above $5 million). As well as some of the individual films are performing, the box office blues will continue until the overall slate picks up.

After the 33% drop in its fourth weekend, The Way of Water’s cume is now $517 million domestic and $1.708 billion worldwide, making it the seventh-biggest global grosser of all time. The domestic total puts it ahead of Top Gun: Maverick’s $467 million cume at the same point in its release, though TWOW’s holiday season release gives it a different trajectory. This weekend, however, improves TWOW’s odds of holding its lead. Maverick’s fourth weekend was a hair under TWOW’s at $44.7 million, and assuming the actuals hold, then TWOW topped it to have the second-biggest fourth weekend of all time after the first Avatar ($50.3 million, though it’s cume was smaller with $431 million after its fourth weekend). Maverick went on to gross another $252 million from there, and if TWOW manages to play on par with Maverick from this point on, that would give it a finish of $769 million and make it the fourth-highest domestic grosser ever (ahead of Avatar’s $750 million original release, though behind its $785 million cume which includes re-releases). A more “pessimistic” possible outcome would be to play like Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, which had a $42.4 million fourth weekend and went on to gross another $124 million. Adding that to Avatar 2’s current cume would get it to $641 million and make it the tenth-highest film of all time. Not that the range of possible domestic outcomes matters hugely for the film, which will soon cross the $2 billion global threshold and make its way into the top five all-time highest grossers (Avengers: Infinity War currently occupies fifth place with $2.048 billion).

For the first time, Avatar: The Way of Water isn’t alone in celebrating strong box office returns. M3GAN’s killer $30.2 million debut is ahead of the openings of 2022’s two big horror hits Smile ($22.6 million opening, $106 million domestic cume) and The Black Phone ($23.6 million opening, $90.1 million domestic cume). For a non-sequel, it’s the best horror opening since before the pandemic. M3GAN is behind previous James Wan produced franchise starters such as The Nun ($53.8 million opening, $117 million domestic cume) and Annabelle ($37.1 million opening, $84.3 million domestic cume), but the 94% on Rotten Tomatoes (a rarity for a mainstream horror film) and B CinemaScore (good for a horror film) bode well for its legs. Worldwide the total is $45 million, and in like-for-likes abroad it is comparable to Smile and Black Phone which respectively grossed $110 million and $71.3 million internationally. Considering the Universal film cost just $12 million, this one is creepy-robot-dancing all the way to the bank.

Universal also took third place with its toon-quel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which is holding very nicely as it drops just 22% in its third weekend, grossing an additional $13.1 million and bringing the total to $87.7 million. That’s better than Sing 2’s $11.6 million weekend three last January, though the Sing sequel still leads in its overall cume ($109 million after its third weekend). Internationally The Last Wish is also holding well, with another $25.9 million pushing its global total to $197 million.

The Tom Hanks starring A Man Called Otto took fourth place with $4.2 million from 637 theaters, expanding from its four theater opening last weekend. The budget here isn’t low (Deadline reported it’s around $50 million), so the Sony film will need to break out from the specialty box office box when it expands nationwide next week in order to turn a profit.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever rounds out the top five with another $3.4 million, bringing the total to $445 million. The global cume is $827 million.