‘Wonka,’ ‘Night Swim,’ and ‘Anyone but You’ Tell Us Why 2024 Box Office Will Be Such a Challenge

Pundits predict 2024 box office will be determined by the success of lower-budget originals rather than franchise films. That was the case this week with good performances from “Anyone But You” and “Night Swim,” but we’re also seeing the downside without blockbusters to elevate grosses.

We did have “Wonka” (Warner Bros.) — a musical prequel to the classic Roald Dahl adaptation — which is now headed for over $200 million domestic. It repeated as #1 this weekend with $14.4 million. followed by $12 million from “Night Swim” (Universal), the latest low-budget ($15 million) Blumhouse horror entry.

Still, the first weekend of 2024 totaled around $87 million. That’s off 18 percent from 2023 thanks to “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which was then in its TK weekend with TK million. Certainly a tough act to follow, but it’s a rare post-holiday weekend not to gross over $100 million and usually substantially higher.

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Sony rom-com “Anyone but You” is #5 at $9.5 million — up 9 percent over its second holiday weekend, which was an improvement over its opening. That’s all but unheard of in a wide release. While its three-day gross isn’t that special, the trajectory suggests this $25 million film (with an atypical R rating for the genre) could reach $100 million and a real boost for stars Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell.

THE IRON CLAW, Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich, 2023. © A24 /Courtesy Everett Collection
“The Iron Claw” Courtesy Everett Collection

That would more than triple the film’s most optimistic expectations and show (once again) that audiences have a mind of their own when it comes to original titles. Similarly, George Clooney’s “The Boys in the Boat” (Amazon MGM) at #6 is just under $34 million and holding well. #8 “The Iron Claw” (A24) is off only 3 percent, over $24 million so far (on a $16 million budget).

Three Top 10 titles must weigh box-office success against production cost. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” (WB), which is fighting for #3 with Universal’s animated “Migration” (final numbers tomorrow), is around $100 million domestic through its third weekend. Though its overseas performance is better, at a cost of over $200 million that’s way below target. Worldwide, the DC title is up to $334 million.

In a sharp decline, the $100 million-budgeted “The Color Purple (WB) fell 59 percent to #7 with $54 million total. It really needs a boost from possible Oscar attention. Ditto for #9, “Ferrari”: Michael Mann’s film cost $95 million (Neon’s domestic acquisition cost unknown) and grossed $16 million to date.

If we continue to see successful originals and franchise titles improve relative to the 2023 disappointments, 2024 could be better than expected. Next weekend will test that theory with three new titles led by “Mean Girls” (Paramount).

NIGHT SWIM, Wyatt Russell, 2024. © Universal Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection
“Night Swim” ©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

The new year usually kicks off with a horror release but “Night Swim” was a weaker entry. (Last year, “M3GAN” opened at $30 million.) Its C Cinemascore did it no favors, but post-Christmas usually brings a pent-up demand for the genre.

Standout late-year specialized release “Poor Things” (Searchlight) returned to the top 10, adding another $2 million to reach $14 million in 750 theaters (oddly, down 50 from last week). This comes ahead of a lot of expected awards action. It is only $5 million behind what director Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” grossed at this point, which had two weeks’ (including Thanksgiving dates) additional play.

Among other limited runs (with expansions later this month), “American Fiction” (MGM Amazon) continues to show good results. It grossed just over $1 million in 110 theaters and a little below $3 million total.

“All of Us Strangers” (Searchlight), now in 42 theaters, grossed a promising $425,000. Still in only six theaters, “The Zone of Interest” (A24) added another $86,000. Both films continue their slow and steady rollouts.

The Top 10

1. Wonka (WB) Week 4; Last weekend #1

$14,430,000 (-36%) in 3,817 (-234) theaters; PTA: $3,780; Cumulative: $164,654,000

2. Night Swim (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: C; Metacritic: 42; Est. budget: $15 million

$12,000,000 in 3,250 theaters; PTA: $3,692; Cumulative: $12,000,000

3. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (WB) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$10,610,000 (-26%) in 3,553 (-234) theaters; PTA: $2,986; Cumulative: $100,021,000

4. Migration (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #3

$10,250,000 (-40%) in 3,712 (-127) theaters; PTA: $2,761; Cumulative: $77,820,000

5. Anyone but You (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #5

$9,500,000 (+9%) in 3,055 (no change) theaters; PTA: $3,110; Cumulative: $43,714,000

6. The Boys in the Boat (Amazon MGM) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$6,100,000 (-28%) in 2,687 (+130) theaters; PTA: $2,241; Cumulative: $33,900,000

7. The Color Purple (WB) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$4,765,000 (-59%) in 3,218 (+15) theaters; PTA: $1,481; Cumulative: $54,621,000

8. The Iron Claw (A24) Week 3; Last weekend #7

$4,522,000 (-3%) in 2,392 (-402) theaters; PTA: $1,890; Cumulative: $24,337,000

9. Ferrari (Neon) Week 2; Last weekend #8

$2,505,000 (-36 percent) in 2,121 (-265) theaters; PTA: $1,181; Cumulative: $16,005,000

10. Poor Things (Searchlight) Week 5

$2,000,000 (-12%) in 750 (-50) theaters; PTA: $2,667; Cumulative: $14,200,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first three weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed. Metacritic scores and initial film festivals recorded.

Mayhem! (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 55; also on VOD

$6,803 in 24 theaters; PTA: $283

The Teachers’ Lounge (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2

$13,181 in 3 (no change) theaters; PTA: $4,394; Cumulative: $54,817

All of Us Strangers (Searchlight) Week 3

$425,000 in 42 (+36) theaters; PTA: $10,110; Cumulative: $866,000

Memory (Emick for Ketchup) Week 3

$65,331 in 14 (+12) theaters; PTA: $4,667; Cumulative: $161,053

Freud’s Last Session (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$17,036 in 10 (+5) theaters; Cumulative: $91,461

The Crime Is Mine (Music Box) Week 3

$7,155 in 4 (+1); Cumulative: $34,282

American Fiction (Amazon MGM) Week 4

$1,009,000 in 114 (+74) theaters; PTA: $8,850; Cumulative: $2,979,000

The Zone of Interest (A24) Week 4

$86,298 in 6 (no change) theaters; PTA: $14,383; Cumulative: $635,479

The Boy and the Heron (GKids) Week 5

$1,722,000 in 860 (-40) theaters; Cumulative: $39,607,000

Anselm (Janus/Sideshow) Week 5

$40,500 in 16 (+9) theaters; Cumulative: $223,433

Godzilla Minus One (Emick for Toho International) Week 6

$1,725,000 in 1,050 (-130) theaters; Cumulative: $49,165,000

The Sweet East (Utopia) Week 6

$8,039 in 2 (+1) theaters; Cumulative: $103,314

Radical (Pantelion) Week 10

$14,706 in 20 (+6) theaters; Cumulative: $8,666,000

The Holdovers (Focus) Week 11; also on PVOD

$110,000 in 153 (-84) theaters; Cumulative: $18,466,000

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