Christmas Weekend Forecast: ‘Aquaman’, ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ ‘Bumblebee,’ Second Act,’ & ‘Welcome to Marwen’ (Updated)

Thursday Update: Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns earned $4.76 million on opening day Wednesday, placing in first at the domestic box office to begin its run. Although that comes in on the low end of expectations, we continue to caution that comparisons on this title are volatile with the lack of similar films, an older target audience, and the two-week holiday period ahead. That figure is also not confirmed to include any significant earnings from Tuesday night shows.

Check out our original weekend forecast below, and stay tuned for further updates on Friday and throughout the weekend.

Wednesday Report: One of the busiest movie-going times of the year is upon us, and studios have cobbled together a slate of new releases poised to offer something for virtually every audience over the course of 2018’s final weekends. Even without a Star Wars film on the Christmas calendar for the first time since 2014, we’re expecting a strong finish to a record year.

Leading the way over the pre-Christmas frame will be the next chapter in Warner Bros.’ DC Cinematic Universe, AquamanPre-release tracking has been increasingly optimistic in recent weeks as the studio’s excellent ad campaign and generally positive reviews have raised both awareness and enthusiasm among fans and general moviegoers. The film’s $2.9 million in Amazon Prime screenings last Saturday marked another signal that the film could be poised for a holiday breakout.

Facebook growth hasn’t measured up to the likes of Venom or other superhero smashes, but Twitter activity and Trailer Impact results have more closely aligned (or exceeded, in some cases) the same title and Ant-Man and the Wasp. While individual metrics and the breadth of competition in the market combine to offer a very wide range of potential (anywhere between $70 million and $100 million would be believable at this point), we’re seeing enough reason to raise our pre-release forecast to around $80 million+ for the three-day weekend. That would be enough to land in the top five December openings of all-time, ahead of I Am Legend ($77.2 million) and Avatar ($77.0 million).

(Sidebar: We’re also forecasting the real world Aquaman will likely earn more than $116,844,114 through Christmas Day.)

Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns makes a mid-week debut on Wednesday, although the studio will not be reporting any Tuesday night pre-show grosses due to a limited run in Dolby Cinemas. Tracking for this title has been perhaps the most challenging to nail down given the severe lack of appropriate comparison films. We’ve long felt that incredible buzz from industry pre-screenings would work in tandem with the brand’s generational appeal, star-driven names like Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, a lucrative holiday corridor, and the revival of musicals at the box office to generate a massive run for the sequel.

Realistically, Poppins is likely to be far more back-loaded as a box office earner relative to most franchise movies. Staying power into early 2019 and Oscar season will be the target here as we’ve been bullish with long term forecasts. Despite increasing mainstream buzz around Aquaman, we can reasonably still see a domestic finish between $250-300 million for the Disney sequel if walk-up business and casual, older audiences take to the film in the way expected. For this weekend, though, we expect Poppins to generate north of $35 million for the three-day (Friday-Sunday) frame and around $50 million from Wednesday through Sunday. That would put the film on course for around $65-70 million through Christmas day.

The last of the big three openers, Paramount’s Bumblebee is hoping to leverage its strong critical reviews with appeal to an all ages audience this weekend. The challenge will be to curtail the Transformers franchise’s fading goodwill in recent years after three consecutive sequels which saw diminishing returns at the domestic box office. Legs will likely be more favorable to the film with direct competition ahead this weekend.

Meanwhile, we continue to expect more modest results from Second Act and Welcome to Marwen as they counter-program the big-budget franchises as adult-leaning options. Among holdovers, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will take a hit initially against Aquaman and Bumblebee, but should recover quickly thanks to strong word of mouth. The Mule will remain the most unaffected by new competition, and The Grinch will enjoy one last pre-Christmas attendance boost.

Top 10 vs. Previous Years

Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top will earn approximately $198 million Friday through Sunday. That would be up 21 percent from last year’s $164.3 million top ten frame, although Christmas Eve fell on that Sunday and deflated grosses significantly.

The more apt comparisons are 2012 and 2007 when the calendar last aligned in the same way (Christmas falling on a Tuesday). The latter of those two earned $96.5 million on the same weekend ($109.6 million adjusted for today’s prices) when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey led the market, while 2007 earned $148.3 million ($197.0 million adjusted) as National Treasure: Book of Secrets, I Am Legend, and Alvin and the Chipmunks formed a strong top three.

Weekend Forecast

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, December 23 % Change from Last Wknd
Aquaman Warner Bros. $82,000,000 $84,900,000 NEW
Mary Poppins Returns Disney $36,000,000 $50,000,000 NEW
Bumblebee Paramount $22,000,000 $22,000,000 NEW
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Sony / Columbia $18,000,000 $64,000,000 -49%
The Mule Warner Bros. $11,000,000 $35,300,000 -37%
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Universal $9,500,000 $253,400,000 -19%
Second Act STX $6,000,000 $6,000,000 NEW
Ralph Breaks the Internet Disney $5,700,000 $162,900,000 -38%
Welcome to Marwen Universal / DreamWorks $4,000,000 $4,000,000 NEW
Mortal Engines Universal $3,700,000 $13,700,000 -51%

Forecasts subject to change as location counts are finalized before Friday.

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