Christmas Box Office Forecast: How Might Avatar: The Way of Water Hold Up as Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Babylon, and I Wanna Dance with Somebody Debut?

Photo Credits: 20th Century Studios / Disney ("Avatar: The Way of Water"); Universal & DreamWorks ("Puss in Boots: The Last Wish"); Linus Sandgren & Paramount ("Babylon"); Sony Pictures ("I Wanna Dance with Somebody")

Thursday Update: With a major winter storm sweeping across the country and impacting holiday travel plans for many, prior box office forecasts leading into the weekend are likely no longer as relevant with moviegoing expected to be impacted as well.

Tuesday Report: After a debut on the extreme end of conservative expectations, all eyes now shift toward how Avatar: The Way of Water can start holding over the heart of the holiday corridor.

Christmas lands on a Sunday this year for the first time since 2016, which gives some insight as to what exhibition can expect. In short: many have already started holiday vacations by the middle of the week, Saturday will be deflated by Christmas Eve, and Christmas Sunday will see major bumps across the board.

As for The Way of Water itself, it’s still early in the game to get an exact feel for where it’s headed, but it isn’t offering any surprises yet either.

Should it hold true to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story‘s daily patterns for an extended period of time during this first week, then a second weekend near $60 million appears likely. If it can start building on the theories of back-loaded behavior, a higher sophomore frame — and ultimate domestic total — come into view more confidently. Time will tell.

Bowing in counter-programming style to take advantage of the holiday break is Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. The sequel to 2011’s spin-off of the Shrek franchise is getting a head start on the weekend with a Wednesday debut, sans any previews except for Early Access screenings held in late November.

As is common around this time of year, tracking is challenging to rely upon with the volatility of holiday calendars skewing comparisons to recent and similar films. As audience habits have changed in recent years, that’s an added hill to climb.

Still, The Last Wish has some factors on its side: positive social media metrics, stellar critics’ and early audience scores, franchise familiarity, and no competition for the family audience with little kids.

If any of the new releases are primed to met or exceed expectations, it’s this one.

Two other releases will court the adult audience that has proven their pickiness for theatrical outings.

First up, Sony’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody is aiming primarily for Whitney Houston fans and women over the age of 35 in a counter-play to the male-driven spectacle of the Avatar sequel.

Without a significant premium footprint, Dance is going to rely on audience word of mouth in the weeks ahead to live up to any sleeper potential. Tracking and pre-sales are comparable to films like House of Gucci and The Woman King.

As of this writing, no critics’ reviews are available. Previews begin on Thursday afternoon.

Last but not least is Paramount’s Babylon from auteur filmmaker Damien Chazelle in a release play that once looked like a potential award season breakout.

Tracking on Babylon has unfortunately been soft for quite some time. Despite star power from Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, a three-hour-plus runtime and mixed reviews are adding to concerns the film could under-perform against former hopes of an American Hustle– or Wolf of Wall Street-like holiday run. Couple that with the reality that period films (such as this year’s Amsterdam) and Hollywood-centric have often struggled commercially.

Previews begin Thursday evening as well.

Final Forecast Ranges

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
3-Day Domestic Opening Weekend Range: $14 million — $19 million
5-Day Domestic Opening Weekend Range: $21 million — $30 million
Domestic Total Range: $109 million — $174 million

Babylon
Domestic Opening Weekend Range: $4.5 million — $8 million
Domestic Total Range: $18 million — $35 million

I Wanna Dance with Somebody
Domestic Opening Weekend Range: $7 million — $12 million
Domestic Total Range: $40 million — $70 million

Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections

Current projection ranges call for a 27 to 34 percent decrease from last weekend’s $151.4 million top ten aggregate.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, December 25 Fri Location Count Projection (as of Tue) 3-Day % Change from Last Wknd
Avatar: The Way of Water Disney & 20th Century Studios $61,300,000 $259,400,000 ~4,202 -54%
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Universal Pictures / DreamWorks Animation $16,600,000 $25,600,000 4,093 NEW
I Wanna Dance with Somebody Sony / Columbia Pictures $9,600,000 $9,600,000 3,300 NEW
Babylon Paramount Pictures $6,700,000 $6,700,000 3,342 NEW
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Disney & Marvel Studios $3,200,000 $425,800,000 3,200 (Wed) ~2,800 (Fri) -40%
Violent Night Universal Pictures $3,100,000 $41,500,000 2,556 -39%
The Whale A24 $1,800,000 $3,300,000 ~600 +960%
Strange World Walt Disney Pictures $1,200,000 $36,600,000 2,525 (Wed) / ~2,300 (Fri) -46%
The Menu Disney / Searchlight Pictures $700,000 $33,700,000 1,825 (Wed) / ~1,100 (Fri) -57%
The Fabelmans Universal Pictures $400,000 $9,700,000 1,118 -46%

All forecasts are subject to revision/finalization before the first confirmation of opening previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.

Theater counts are either studio estimates OR unofficial projections if preceded by “~”.

The above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.

 

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