The first weekend of 2023 is in the books and as expected the behemoth known as Avatar: The Way of Water continued its utter domination with another $45 million added to its till to bring the James Cameron directed sequel to an impressive $516.7 million domestic. As impressive as that number is stateside, the real magic is happening outside of the domestic box office as the sequel, according to Cameron himself, has hit its break even point, with a total of over $1.5 billon, and now he must make the next films in the franchise.
I must be honest, there is something I’m still not understanding about all of this “break-even” stuff: the film had a reported budget around $450 million, so all of these “break-even” reports are based on that, but Cameron said he filmed the bulk of the third movie and parts of the fourth movie at the same time. So, wouldn’t the break even point for part 2 be much less? Does that mean that Avatar 3’s break even point will be much less considering they just have to make up their post-production costs? Perhaps one of our smarter readers can help shed some light on this in the comments section as everything I have read on the subject has only confused me even more! (Yes, I know all of you reading this thought of me as a Mensa level genius, but sadly I am merely a regular level genius!)
The big news for this weekend is the massive success of the new-release horror film M3GAN which opened with a strong $30.2 million (over $10 million above my original prediction). What’s even more impressive is that on Friday, it officially became the first film to knock Avatar: The Way of Water from its perch atop the box office when it pulled in $11.7 million to Avatar’s $11.4 million. Of course there is an asterisk next to that number as that $11.7 includes the $3 million M3GAN made in its preview screenings which began at 5pm on Thursday. Of course that is just splitting hairs, in the official books (I don’t know if there are official books, but for the sake of argument we will say there are) M3GAN is the first film to beat Avatar: The Way of Water at the box office (if for only one day!)
This opening is another feather in the cap of not just James Wan who has turned himself into one of the biggest names in horror, but for Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions who continue to make films with relatively small budgets (in this case, $12 million) and yield massive profits. If you take the measure that a film generally spends an additional half of the films budget on marketing, that puts the all in budget on M3GAN at around $20 million. Take out any back end deals or additional compensation paid to any of the participants and you have this films opening weekend of $30.2 million pretty much already seeing profit. Blumhouse is known to trust their filmmakers and let them make the films they want to make with no interference, and I think the proof is in the pudding as they say and the success Jason Blum and his production company has seen over the years should be a blue print for other studios to quit interfering with their filmmakers and let them make the films you hired them to make!
Coming in third place this weekend is the only real family option available: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish with an estimated weekend take of $13.1 million and a domestic total of $87.7 million. That’s not a horrible number for this animated sequel, but it is still about $20 million shy of where the original one was after its third weekend of release. The film should hold on to the family market for a while as the nearest family film on the calendar is the new Winnie The Pooh film coming out on February 15… wait, that’s not right, I don’t think Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey is targeting the family market but The Super Mario Bros. Movie is, which doesn’t come out until April 7, 2023. Of course with Universal sticking to their short theatrical to digital windows (in this case just 19 days since it hit theaters), Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is now available to rent or purchase on your own TV and can end up costing the film some bucks at the box office (that I guess they make up for on the digital purchases? But I know I’d be upset if I spent over $100 to bring a family of five to theater if I could have just waited less than three weeks and saved over 70 bucks!)
Coming in quite strong in fourth place is the Tom Hanks starring remake A Man Called Otto with $4.2 million on just 637 screens. The film which has received decent, if not overwhelmingly positive reviews (including the 5/10 from our own Chris Bumbray) seems to have caught on with fans who have given it a 97% audience score (for comparison, the current box office champ Avatar: The Way of Water has a 92% audience score while M3GAN has a 79%). Like I said in my original predictions, people will watch Tom Hanks in just about anything, he is one of the few actors working today that has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his films (even though, if I’m being honest his recent live action Pinocchio did test me a bit!)
The remainder of the top ten looks to be your holdover titles including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in fifth place with $3.3 million followed by Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody with $2.4 million. Coming in seventh place is Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale with another $1.5 million added to its till, which actually represents a 9% increase over last week. It is obvious people are seeking out Brendan Fraser’s sure to be Oscar Nominated (and it is good enough to be Oscar Winning in my most humble of opinions) performance. Eighth place belongs to Damien Chazelle’s tale of 1920’s Hollywood debauchery, Babylon, with an additional $1.4 million added to its total box office take of just $13.5 million. Even though the film is one of the bigger flops of recent memory, I must say it is worth seeing. Despite its overlong runtime (3 hours and 9 minutes) there are moments of absolute genius on display. Perhaps it will find its audience once it hits home video.
Coming in ninth place is Violent Night with an additional $740,000. I find that to be quite impressive considering the Christmas season is long in our rearview mirrors, but some people are still heading to theaters to see Santa kick a little ass! And finally, tenth place belongs to a movie I rewatched the other night which solidified it as my favorite movie of 2022: The Menu with an additional $713,000. I can not say much about this one without giving away what makes it so great, but it is one of the most original films I have ever seen with absolutely pitch perfect performances from its entire cast (including Golden Globe Nominated performances by Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes. This is one I genuinely hope the SAG Awards nominate for its Best Cast award as it would 100% get my vote)
Did you make it out to theaters this weekend? If so, what did you see and was it any good? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to check out our weekly poll where we ask what your favorite Blumhouse Production is.