Weekend Box Office: Avatar 2 retains the top spot while new releases falter

With the Christmas & Hannukah holiday’s officially over, we can finally return our focus to what matters most: box office numbers! And, to put it bluntly, unless you were the sequel to the highest grossing movie of all time, it wasn’t a great weekend for you!

As expected Avatar: The Way of Water came in first place with an estimated 3-day take of $64 million with some seeing the 4-day haul as high as $100 million. The film seems to have had solid Christmas Day numbers at just over $29 million, making it the fourth best Christmas day take ever (behind The Force Awakens, The Rise of Skywalker and Spider-Man: No Way Home). The sequel has also played to excellent weekday numbers, and this second weekend take is actually quite excellent! What does this all mean? Well, last week when the film came in pretty strongly under even the most modest of predictions, some people were sounding the alarms. But those numbers didn’t represent a lack of interest for the film, but rather a lack of good seats! Avatar: The Way of Water is something that must be experienced in optimal conditions, and sitting in the very front of a theater with your neck tilted straight up just isn’t the way to do it. So people decided to wait. When I looked at my local theater’s app on Christmas Day to see how full each movie was, it was really only Avatar that had the majority of their seats sold. With nearly a billion already made in two weeks of release worldwide, Avatar: The Way of Water is doing just fine at the box office and will continue to do so for quite some time.

James Cameron filmed the Avatar sequels at the same time so avoid the "Stranger Things effect" with the younger actors.

Of the new releases, the animated sequel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish fared the best, although I will blame the massive winter storm that blanketed nearly the entire United States for my prediction being so far off the mark. The film’s weekend take was only $12.4 million while its full holiday weekend take since opening on Wednesday is only looking at around $26.9 million. The first film saw a 3-day take of just over $34 million on its way to a $149.2 domestic total. Worldwide numbers are slightly optimistic as it opened to over $51 million. Again, let’s not bury the lead: with great reviews (including an 8/10 score from our own JimmyO), great audience scores (currently at a 93%) and a a solid A cinemascore (the original received an A-) combined with no real family competition until April 7, 2023 (when The Super Mario Bros. Movie is released), Puss in Boots: The Last Wish will be just fine in the long haul.

Now we must address the elephants in the room: the box office bombs. This holiday season it looks like Santa dropped a lump of coal in Sony and Paramount’s stocking as their films Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (which appears to be the films official title now as I guess Sony didn’t think many people made the connection between I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Whitney Houston) and Babylon both failed to launch over $6 million (Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody netted just $4.7 million for the weekend while Babylon fully flatlined with just $3.6 million). To put that into even more perspective: both films failed to beat the domestic opening of Cats which was released over Christmas 2019! Both films were released to capitalize on awards season, however with middling reviews (including a 6/10 one from our own Chris Bumbray) and only one nomination so far (for Outstanding Editing from the Black Reel Awards), it appears this Whitney Houston biopic may be one of those films that just fades away. Which is a shame as I do think Whitney Houston is someone deserving of a great biopic, but the consensus seems to be that this one was just a bit too cliche’d. 

As for Babylon, with a reported $80 million budget and more middle of the road reviews (including another 6/10 review from Chris Bumbray) this one looks to be one of the biggest bombs of 2022. Having seen the film (and being a massive fan of all the talent involved) I can say that I really enjoyed this movie for about 2 and a half hours, but at a certain point it all got a bit much for me. I think with some more judicious editing, Babylon could have been one of the greatest “Hollywood” based films about the transition from the silent film era to the “talkies.” There is a scene early in the film that shows how silent films were made that is one of the best scenes from any movie this year. Chazelle and his Director of Photography Linus Sandgren (who won an Oscar for lensing La La Land) have a unique way of using steady cams for long beautiful shots, but again, those last thirty minutes were a bit much. The good news for this one is that it is racking up some award nominations including 9 Critics Choice Awards and 5 Golden Globe Awards, which generally translates into a bit of a bump at the box office. However, it would need to be quite some bump to get near that $80 million budget. 

Violent Night, What Did You Think

Rounding out the top five is the R rated Santa Claus meets Die Hard meets Home Alone film Violent Night. Even though this one was released relatively quick to video on demand to capitalize on those at home holiday dollars, it appears people were still keen to check out this new Christmas classic on the big screen as it finally managed to beat Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with an estimated take of $3.1 million to Black Panther’s $3.02 million. Of course with Christmas over, you can expect this one to fall fast, but that doesn’t matter as a sequel to the yuletide bloodfest is already being discussed.

The Whale, Brendan Fraser

Coming in seventh place, with a 539% rise in its week to week box office take is the excellent Darren Aronofsky film The Whale with an estimated $924 thousand. It is obvious people are making their way to one of the 603 screens playing this film to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Brendan Fraser’s sure to be Oscar nominated performance (I also hope to see Hong Chau sneak a nomination as well because she is brilliant in this movie and also The Menu).

Speaking of The Menu, the film continues its fairly impressive run with an addition $617 thousand and a $33.7 million total. As I have said before, go see this movie! It is far and away one of the best of the year. Rounding out the top ten are a pair of box office under-performers with the Steven Spielberg semi auto-biographical The Fabelmans taking in an estimated $550 thousand and Disney’s Strange World racking up an addition $410 thousand.

Were you able to make it to theaters this weekend or was the draw of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery on Netflix all you needed? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to take our poll where we ask what your favorite James Cameron Directed Film is.

# MOVIE TITLE WKND $ TOTAL $
1 Avatar: The Way of Water $64.0 M $287.6 M
2 Puss in Boots: The Last Wish $12.4 M $20 M
3 Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody $4.7 M $4.7 M
4 Babylon $3.6 M $3.6 M
5 Violent Night $3.1 M $41.6 M
6 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever $3.02 M $425.6 M
7 The Whale $924 k $2.06 M
8 The Menu $617 k $33.7 M
9 The Fabelmans $550 k $9.7 M
10 Strange World $410 k $35.5 M
Source: Comscore, Deadline

About the Author

317 Articles Published

Brad grew up loving movies and wanting to work in the industry. Graduated from Full Sail University in 2007 before moving to Los Angeles where I was fortunate enough to join SAG-Aftra in 2012. I love every second I get to write about movies for Joblo!