MLK Box Office Forecast: Avatar: The Way of Water Looks to Top Titanic‘s No. 2 All-Time Fifth Frame at $30M+; All Eyes on M3GAN‘s Hold and A Man Called Otto‘s Expansion

Photo Credits: Disney & 20th Century Studios ("Avatar: The Way of Water"); Universal & Blumhouse ("M3GAN"); Sony ("A Man Called Otto"); Lionsgate ("Plane"); Warner Bros. ("House Party")

After a stronger-than-expected start to January, Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend hopes to continue the early positive vibes at the 2023 box office during the coming holiday frame.

Avatar: The Way of Water is the favorite to again lead the box office in its fifth weekend as it will face very little new competition and continue retaining its vast premium screen footprint. Way of Water is fresh off the second highest gross ever by a film in its fourth weekend of wide release, netting $45.84 million. It trailed only the original Avatar ($50.31 million) in that regard.

(Yes, American Sniper‘s historic $89.27 million expansion and $64.63 million holdover weekends are ignored in the above comparisons. The film was only in 4 theaters for the first three weeks of its “official” release.)

Through Tuesday, the James Cameron epic has now tallied $525.7 million as the 16th highest earner in market history. The film is set to surpass the non-adjusted totals of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($533.54 million), The Dark Knight ($534.99 million), and The Lion King (2019) ($543.64 million) in the coming days.

Among all-time fifth weekend performances, the standard-bearer is also the 2009 Avatar at $42.79 million. Second place belongs to another Cameron juggernaut: Titanic, with $30.01 million. The Way of Water looks likely to usurp the latter during the coming three-day period.

Last week’s breakout of M3GAN will be of interest heading into its sophomore frame. After a $30.43 million debut, the Universal and Blumhouse hit hopes to capitalize on mostly positive reception from its core female and under-35 crowd.

M3GAN‘s post-previews trajectory showed early signs of what legs could like in the days and weeks ahead, jumping more than 30 percent from Friday’s true gross to Saturday. Smile and Barbarian achieved similar bumps during their debuts last year to hint at their staying power to come.

Also of note last week was the limited expansion of A Man Called Otto, which now goes into true wide release for MLK weekend.

Estimated at more than 3,500 locations, the Tom Hanks-led dramedy adaptation is looking to build on the momentum of its $4.2 million showing from just 637 locations last week.

Crowd-pleasing reception, a light and heartfelt narrative, and the holiday frame drive encouraging tracking signals, though comparisons are skewed due to the staggered nature of its release expansion.

Meanwhile, two fully new releases have varying degrees of potential between them.

Likely to lead among the duo is Lionsgate’s action-thriller Plane, led by Gerard Butler. The actor’s non-franchise films have fallen into somewhat predictable patterns in recent years, not unlike Liam Neeson and his glut of actioners.

Tracking has been mixed, in large part due to a quiet marketing campaign that didn’t really click until a few days ago. Since then, signs have improved slightly, though it remains the kind of film likely to under-perform against what might have been expected of it before the pandemic and boom in streaming content — especially without much of a premium screen footprint.

Plane is set to open at more than 2,900 locations with previews beginning Thursday evening.

Warner Bros. gets rolling with its first 2023 release in the form of House Party, a remake of the 1990 cult classic. It also has previews beginning Thursday. The studio has not issued an official location count estimate as of Wednesday morning.

Unfortunately, House Party is currently tracking behind the likes of recent comedic misfires such as Bros and Easter Sunday, though one advantage during the weekend might be hoping to attract walk-up business from its core young, male, Black audience.

Last but not least, Third Day Productions is releasing The Devil Conspiracy in semi-wide release at an estimated 925 locations.

Over the weekend, one of several notable narratives to look for will be how openers and holdovers are able to contend with a full slate of NFL playoff games.

3-Day Weekend Ranges

Avatar: The Way of Water
Fifth Weekend Range: $30 – 38 million

A Man Called Otto
Wide Expansion Weekend Range: $9 – 14 million

House Party (2023)
Opening Weekend Range: <$5 million

Opening Weekend Range: $4 – 9 million (TBD)

Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections

Current projection ranges call for an 10 to 20 percent decline from last weekend’s $104.3 million top ten aggregate.

Film Studios 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, January 15 Fri Location Count Projection (as of Wed) 3-Day % Change from Last Wknd 4-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Monday, January 16
Avatar: The Way of Water Disney & 20th Century Studios $35,000,000 $566,300,000 ~4,200 -24% $43,600,000 $574,900,000
M3GAN Universal Pictures & Blumhouse $17,000,000 $55,600,000 ~3,509 -44% $19,600,000 $58,200,000
A Man Called Otto Sony & Columbia Pictures $12,000,000 $17,800,000 ~3,500 169% $14,400,000 $20,200,000
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Universal Pictures & DreamWorks Animation $11,200,000 $103,400,000 ~3,800 -17% $14,900,000 $107,100,000
Plane Lionsgate $7,000,000 $7,000,000 ~2,900 NEW $8,000,000 $8,000,000
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Disney & Marvel Studios $3,000,000 $450,000,000 ~2,200 -14% $3,800,000 $450,800,000
House Party (2023) Warner Bros. Pictures $2,100,000 $2,100,000 ~1,500 NEW $2,400,000 $2,400,000
I Wanna Dance with Somebody Sony & Columbia Pictures $1,700,000 $22,300,000 ~2,500 -30% $2,200,000 $22,800,000
The Whale A24 $1,300,000 $10,600,000 ~1,500 -16% $1,600,000 $10,900,000
The Fabelmans Universal Pictures & Amblin Entertainment $500,000 $14,100,000 ~900 -15% $625,000 $14,300,000

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.

Photo Credits: Disney & 20th Century Studios ("Avatar: The Way of Water"); Universal & Blumhouse ("M3GAN"); Sony ("A Man Called Otto"); Lionsgate ("Plane"); Warner Bros. ("House Party")
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