With $921M, December 2021 proved the top month at last year’s box office. Could the same occur for December 2022?
While it’s unlikely to beat July 2022’s $1.13B high-water mark, this December has several potential blockbusters on the slate, including what some believe could become the top-grossing movie of the year.
Here are the biggest movies coming to theaters this month, in chronological order of their wide release date.
Note: several films are opening in limited release in December but will expand wide in January, including A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks and the awards contender Women Talking. Such films are not listed below and will be included in Boxoffice PRO‘s upcoming January 2023 preview article instead.
Friday, December 2
Premise: Universal’s R-rated action comedy stars David Harbour (Black Widow, Netflix’s Stranger Things) as Santa Claus, who on Christmas Eve must take on a gang of armed mercenaries. Tommy Wirkola (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) directs.
Box office: Other adult-themed holiday movies include 2003’s Bad Santa ($60.0M), 2016’s Office Christmas Party ($54.7M), and 2017’s A Bad Moms Christmas ($72.1M), and 2016’s Bad Santa 2 ($17.7M).
Friday, December 9
Premise: Focus Features’ comedy-drama stars Jim Parsons (CBS’s The Big Bang Theory) and Ben Aldridge (television’s Pennyworth and Fleabag) as a same-sex couple dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Michael Showalter (The Big Sick, The Eyes of Tammy Faye) directs. Based on the novel Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello.
Box office: Bros, another 2022 movie about a same-sex male couple, earned $11.6M. 2011’s “cancer comedy” 50/50 made $35.0M, although that’s likely too high a benchmark for Spoiler Alert to reach.
Friday, December 9
Premise: A24’s drama stars Brendan Fraser as a 600-pound man trying to reestablish ties with his teenage daughter, played by Sadie Sink (Netflix’s Stranger Things). Fraser is currently the strong frontrunner to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) directs. Based on the 2012 play by Samuel D. Hunter.
Box office: Most films from independent distributor A24 earn less than $20M, although their top film ever was released just this year: March’s Everything Everywhere All at Once ($70.0M).
Father Stu: Reborn
Friday, December 9
Premise: Starring Mark Wahlberg as Stuart Long, a real-life boxer who became a priest, Sony Pictures originally released the faith-based film in April for Easter. The R-rated film has now received a PG-13 re-cut, timed to release during the Christmas season.
Box office: The original run earned $20.7M. It’s unclear how much this re-cut is poised to take in, but a good comparison here may be 2010’s The King’s Speech. The original R-rated version earned $135.4M, then a PG-13 cut released after its Academy Award for Best Picture earned $3.3M, or about 2.4% as much. A similar 2.4% for Father Stu would earn about $500K.
Avatar: The Way of Water
Friday, December 16
Premise: 20th Century Studios’ sci-fi sequel is one of the most anticipated movies of the entire decade, let alone this year. Writer-director James Cameron’s 2009 Avatar became a bona fide sensation; for The Way of Water, he reunites with returning cast Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña, with some newcomers —including Kate Winslet and Jemaine Clement—added into the mix as well. It’s 3 hours and 12 minutes long.
Box office: The first film earned $749.7M domestic during its original run, making it the highest-grossing movie ever at the time. (It’s subsequently been knocked down to #4, behind 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, and 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home.)
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Wednesday, December 21
Premise: The Universal / Dreamworks animated sequel stars the lovable swashbuckling kitten from the Shrek franchise, voiced by Antonio Banderas. Other voices in the cast include Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh, John Mulaney, and Olivia Colman. Joel Crawford (The Croods: A New Age) and Januel Mercado direct.
Box office: The series has shown consistently diminishing returns since the second installment: 2004’s Shrek 2 earned $441.2M, but then 2007’s Shrek the Third earned less ($322.7M), 2010’s Shrek Forever After earned less still ($238.7M), then 2011’s spinoff Puss in Boots continued the decline with $194.2M.
Friday, December 23
Premise: Paramount’s Roaring Twenties historical comedy epic stars Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Tobey Maguire, and Diego Calva. Writer-director Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash) helms. Babylon is 3 hours and 8 minutes long, one of the longest mainstream theatrical releases in recent memory.
Box office: Although not in the same genre, Chazelle’s prior theatrical release was 2018’s First Man ($44.9M). October’s Amsterdam, also set in the 1920s and also starring Robbie, earned $14.9M.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody
Friday, December 23
Premise: Sony Pictures’s Whitney Houston biopic stars Naomi Ackie as the late singer, who achieved numerous #1 songs—including the title track, which scaled the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1987. Kasi Lemmons (Harriet) directs.
Box office: More successful music biopics in recent years include June’s Elvis ($151.0M); 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, about Freddie Mercury and Queen ($216.3M); and 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, about N.W.A. ($161.1M). Less successful attempts have included 2019’s Rocketman, about Elton John ($96.3M); 2017’s All Eyez on Me, about Tupac ($44.9M); and 2009’s Notorious, about the Notorious B.I.G. ($36.8M).