New Year’s Box Office Forecast: Avatar: The Way of Water to Continue Stretching Legs, Pacing for $400M+ Domestic Total through Holiday Frame

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")

After an historic winter storm that impacted a wide swath of the country over Christmas, and continues to be felt via widespread travel delays, theaters hope to see some holdover rebounds over the New Year’s frame with no openers on deck.

Avatar: The Way of Water will easily repeat atop the box office in its third frame as the James Cameron epic continues to play the long game. Despite opening 14 percent below Rogue One: A Star Wars Story‘s $155.1 million debut with the same calendar alignment in 2016, Way of Water‘s 11-day haul has closed the gap to less than 8 percent ($293.3 million versus $318.1 million). That’s despite the aforementioned snow and ice storms late last week.

As demand for Way of Water continues to heavily favor premium formats, the film is meeting expectations of a relatively back-loaded run with limited availability for such screenings combined with positive audience reception. Barring any other extenuating circumstances beyond the industry’s control, the film should comfortably zoom past the $400 million domestic threshold over the four-day weekend.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish should also continue to enjoy the school break throughout this week and weekend with kids not returning to class until next Monday at the earliest. The sequel is performing generally in line with expectations as the marquee offering for families and parents with kids too young for the Avatar sequel. It’s earned $26.2 million in its first six days.

From there, the rest of the market is slim relative to years past, due not just a lack of sufficient content but also to the two box office misfires which opened over Christmas.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody has a better chance for recovery due to its more mainstream appeal and high-profile subject in Whitney Houston, plus a solid 91 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, even with the winter weather in mind, the film far under-performed expectations in its debut.

Meanwhile, Babylon is in an even more precarious situation as a three-hour-plus, Hollywood period film garnering a disconcerting 49 percent audience score. Despite some recognition via Golden Globe nominations, already muted buzz around the film has unfortunately soured at a quick pace where moviegoers are concerned.

Babylon is likely to be leap-frogged by Black Panther: Wakanda Forever‘s eighth frame, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Violent Night‘s fifth weekend knock the pic out of the top five entirely.

Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections

Current projection ranges call for between an 8 percent decline and a 2 percent increase from last weekend’s $94 million top ten aggregate.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, January 1 Fri Location Count Projection (as of Wed) 3-Day % Change from Last Wknd 4-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Monday, January 2
Avatar: The Way of Water Disney & 20th Century Studios $56,000,000 $414,300,000 ~4,202 -12% $73,900,000 $432,300,000
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Universal Pictures / DreamWorks Animation $14,900,000 $56,900,000 ~4,099 +20% $19,800,000 $61,800,000
I Wanna Dance with Somebody Sony / Columbia Pictures $4,400,000 $15,100,000 ~3,625 -8% $5,700,000 $16,400,000
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Disney & Marvel Studios $3,900,000 $436,800,000 ~2,250 +12% $5,200,000 $438,100,000
Babylon Paramount Pictures $2,900,000 $10,500,000 ~3,343 -19% $3,800,000 $11,400,000
Violent Night Universal Pictures $2,500,000 $48,100,000 ~2,500 -29% $3,200,000 $48,800,000
The Whale A24 $1,500,000 $5,800,000 ~625 +51% $2,000,000 $6,300,000
The Fabelmans Universal Pictures $1,000,000 $12,000,000 ~1,100 +34% $1,300,000 $12,300,000
The Menu Disney / Searchlight Pictures $900,000 $35,900,000 ~840 +33% $1,200,000 $36,200,000
Strange World Walt Disney Pictures $475,000 $36,900,000 ~1,300 +15% $655,000 $37,100,000

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.

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