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'Aquaman' Looks to Lead Long, Christmas Weekend at the Box Office

by Brad Brevet
 

 
December 18, 2018

SATURDAY AM UPDATE: WB's Aquaman is leading the way as expected, bringing in an estimated $28 million on Friday, which includes $9 million from preview grosses for a $32.7 million cumulative gross as the studio did not apply the $4.7 million from Amazon Prime screenings to Friday's gross. When looking at the "pure" Friday gross of $19 million when removing the $9 million in previews we're looking at a performance very similar to the very first Transformers, which opened with $70.5 million over its first three days, which also saw previews account for 32% of its Friday gross. X-Men: Apocalypse is another comp that had previews account for 31% of its Friday gross before ultimately delivering $65.7 million in its first three days. Industry expectations are for a $70+ million three-day performance, which is pretty much right in line with pre-weekend expectations. Aquaman received an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.

Warner Bros. also issued an international update for Aquman, which added another $18.9 million overseas from 70 markets on Friday for an international running cume that now stands at $350.7 million. The film's top grossing market remains China, which now accounts for over 61% of the film's international gross with $214.3 million.

Paramount's Bumblebee delivered an estimated $8.46 million on Friday with expectations it will bring in ~$22+ million for the three-day weekend. The film received a "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.

Disney's Mary Poppins Returns brought in an estimated $6.7 million on Friday, it's third day in release with expectations the film will deliver $30+ million over its first five days in release.

STXfilms's Second Act brought in an estimated $2.48 million on Friday to go along with a "B+" CinemaScore. The film is expected to deliver ~$6.7 million for the three-day weekend.

Universal and DreamWorks's Welcome to Marwen brought in a disappointing $909k on Friday with expectations for a soft, $2.7 million three-day performance. The film received a "B-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.

You can check out all of the Friday estimates right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a complete look at the weekend.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: WB's Aquaman is off to a strong start, bringing in $13.7 million from advanced previews, which includes $4.7 million from Amazon Prime showings ($2.9m) and as well as Real-D previews on Wednesday night. Thursday night's showings began at 5PM in over 3,300 locations. Taking all previews into account, Aquaman's total preview gross is just a bit behind the $14.5 million Thor: Ragnarok brought in for previews, yet ahead of the $13 million in previews for Justice League.

Paramount's Bumblebee brought in $2.15 million from previews last night to go along with an additional $700k from December 8 sneak previews, for a total preview gross of $2.85 million. While not a direct comparison, Transformers: The Last Knight brought in $5.5 million from Thursday previews in advance of the film's Wednesday opening.

STXfilms's Second Act brought in $515,000 from previews in ~2,000 locations. The studio is comping against Paramount's Instant Family, which brought in $550k in previews before debuting with $14.5 million back in November while films such as Everything, Everything and The Best of Me brought in $525k in previews before $11.7 million and $10 million debuts respectively.

Universal and DreamWorks Pictures's Welcome to Marwen grossed $190,000 in previews from 1,600 theaters last night. The performance is just ahead of the $175k in previews for Eddie the Eagle, but well behind the $425k in previews for Downsizing.

Finally, Disney's Mary Poppins Returns brought in an estimated $4.05 million for a two-day total of $8.8 million.

We'll take a closer look at things tomorrow morning once Friday estimates come in. For now you can check out our weekend preview below.

THURSDAY AM UPDATE: Disney's release of Mary Poppins Returns is underway with the film taking in an estimated $4.79 million on Wednesday to go along with an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences. The studio is anticipating a $30 million, five-day debut.

We'll have additional updates as they come in and over the next several days, but for now you can check out our long "weekend" preview below.

LONG WEEKEND PREVIEW: The upcoming weekend offers up a much different release landscape than we have seen in some time with Christmas falling on a Tuesday. The last time that happened was 2012 and before that 2007, and the holiday positioning opens things up for several ways of looking at, and evaluating, the crop of upcoming releases over the next several days. That being said, we'll be looking at a seven-day release for Disney's Mary Poppins Returns and a five-day release for this Friday's debuts for Aquaman, Bumblebee, Second Act and Welcome to Marwen as each looks to take advantage of Christmas Day, which is consistently the largest movie-going day of the year.

Expected to easily top the holiday frame is Warner Bros.'s release of Aquaman, the latest addition in the studio's DC Extended Universe and it is already off to an excellent start after a massive launch in China two weeks ago, and thus far generated over $266 million internationally after adding additional markets this past weekend. As for this week's domestic debut, it's arriving in over 4,100 locations with studio expectations targeting a $67+ million three-day while industry expectations are looking at a $120 million five-day performance from Friday through Christmas Day. The film has also already held exclusive previews for Amazon Prime customers and will have two separate days of previews leading up to its official, Friday release. That said, let's try and unpack this a little bit further.

Beginning with the film's Amazon Prime preview event this past Saturday (12/15), it brought in a massive $2.9 million, over one million more than the $1.86 million Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle brought in from its Prime preview event in advance of a Wednesday launch that saw the film deliver over $50 million in five days and over $71 million in six days with Christmas Day serving as that sixth and final day, exhibiting the holiday's box office might. On that note, a look at IMDb page views shows Aquaman out-pacing Jumanji leading up to release, though given the difference in date ranges, not to mention the franchise boost Aquaman gets, it doesn't make for a very good apples-to-apples comparison. For that matter, a lot of the comparisons we've been looking at aren't as "good" as they are insightful due to their position on the release calendar.

A look at IMDb page view data for films such as Justice League, Guardians of the Galaxy, Venom, Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok and Wonder Woman shows Aquaman outpacing all of them leading up to release, some by a significant margin. So what does this mean for Aquaman?

Based on the numbers we're looking at, if this was a standard, three-day weekend we might be looking to go with a $90-100+ million three-day for Aquaman, but that's before we take into account the holiday timing and current competition which includes not only last weekend's #1 movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but this weekend's Bumblebee, both of which will factor into Aquaman's performance. That said, we've started to consider what could have been a $90-100 million three-day and translated that to a five-day performance, which puts us more in the range of a $110-125 million five-day. This then translates to a $70-80 million three-day weekend.

We haven't yet received a reply from WB as to how they'll be handling the Amazon Prime grosses, which Sony reported separate from the opening weekend grosses for Jumanji and Hotel Transylvania 3, but WB will likely be adding Wednesday and Thursday preview grosses to Friday's number, which also makes an accurate forecast even more difficult to nail down. As for those previews, WB will hold special Real-D previews on Wednesday night in 200+ locations beginning at 7PM followed by Thursday previews in over 3,300 locations beginning at 5PM. The film will then open in virtually every conceivable format — 2D, 3D, IMAX, Dolby Cinemas, PLF, Dine-Ins, Drive-Ins and D-Box Motion Seats — on Friday in over 4,100 theaters.

Internationally, Aquaman will open in Korea and France on Wednesday, followed by releases in Germany and Spain this weekend.

We next move to Mary Poppins Returns, which debuts on Wednesday, December 21, giving the film a full seven-day run, ending on Christmas Day. The sequel starring Emily Blunt in the title role arrives 54 years after the original and will begin its run in over 4,000 locations with industry expectations looking for a seven-day debut north of $55 million. Depending on your perspective, comps for the title range from last year's The Greatest Showman and 2016's animated release Sing. Additional, and obvious comps, include 2014's Into the Woods and 2012's Les Miserables. Varying release schedules in relation to Christmas Day makes direct comps of these titles difficult, but they all provide evidence of films that enjoyed lengthy box office runs with the 4.1x multiplier for Into the Woods being the "worst" of the four films. Overall, they have an average multiplier of 5.75x for the three films excluding the monster, 19.8x multiplier for Greatest Showman, which is in a class of its own in that respect.

While this information doesn't exactly allow us to narrow down an opening performance, it should help put whatever the performance is into perspective. Mary Poppins is a long-term play and a seven-day performance around $55-65 million and a three-day around $28-33 million shouldn't be looked at as a struggle, but more of an early start on a run that should play well into 2019.

Internationally, Mary Poppins will debut in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and Austria this weekend while opening on Christmas Day in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Paramount's Bumblebee is the first film in the Transformers franchise to debut outside the summer season and the more family-friendly approach from director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) appears to have already paid off with critics. The $135 million production has earned a Certified Fresh score of 97% on RottenTomatoes (miles better than any of the previous five releases) and a look at IMDb page view performance shows the film outpacing Transformers: The Last Knight ($44.7m opening) leading up to release.

Of course, poorer and poorer reviews for each of the subsequent Transformers films puts Bumblebee in something of a "prove yourself" position with audiences, not to mention competition from Aquaman as well as the second weekend of Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which also received strong reviews and a coveted, "A+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences. The good news in this scenario, however, is the film is in a good position to actually earn back its audience and also enjoy a long run at the box office as a second or third choice behind those two aforementioned films. So, while Paramount is remaining conservative, anticipating a debut in the low $20 millions for the $135 million production, don't be surprised to see a $26+ million three-day, translating into a $40-45+ million five-day.

STX's romantic comedy Second Act will debut in approximately 2,600 locations on Friday with industry expectations anticipating a debut around $8 million, which lines up similarly to what we're seeing. The two comps we've focused on for the Jennifer Lopez-led feature are 2013's Baggage Claim and 2012's The Guilt Trip, both suggesting a debut anywhere from $7-9 million for the five-day, which would mean a three-day anywhere from $4.7-6 million for the $16 million production.

The final new wide release over the coming seven days is Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures's Welcome to Marwen, a narrative adaptation of the story told in the 2010 documentary Marwencol and early signs aren't positive. Industry expectations peg the film's five-day performance somewhere around $7 million for the $39 million production. In terms of comps, we've been looking mostly at films such as Downsizing ($4.95m opening) and Eddie the Eagle ($6m opening) and when comparing IMDb page views, Marwen is pacing slightly behind both leading up to release. Added to that, the lack of awards for this one and not a single review yet to be posted online doesn't bode well for either the film's opening or its longevity.

Expanding nationwide this weekend, both The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots will be heading into over 700 theaters with the former having an outside shot at making it into the top ten after already playing well in limited release, finishing in 12th position each of the last two weekends.

In limited release, Yash Raj will be releasing Zero while Amazon Studios debuts Cold War into three theaters.

This post will be updated throughout the week, including Friday morning with Thursday night previews*. Following that we'll update with Friday estimates on Saturday morning, weekend estimates on Sunday morning and a complete recap following Christmas.

* Disney is holding Tuesday previews for Mary Poppins Returns in 125 Dolby Cinema auditoriums, but grosses will not be reported.

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