“Wakanda Forever” Tops Box Office Amid Five New Releases (11/27/22)

Hello everyone! I’m Owen, taking over the weekly box office column from Blue Adept. You may remember me from the time I wrote extensively about Gene Autry singing cowboy robot alien invasion serial The Phantom Empire for The Avocado, except I never finished because making the gifs was too frustrating. I’m a regular theatergoer, especially post-vaccine (thank you to the AMC Stubs A-List), and I think it’s important to support and protect theatrical exhibition, for the benefit of both filmmakers and their audiences, even when weekends like this one can look a little disappointing. (All data from Box Office Mojo.)

This weekend is a bit unusual: not only is it a five-day Thanksgiving weekend, there are five new films at the box office in wide release, including a rather unusual one in that it’s made for Netflix. Topping them all, however, is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in its third week, making $64m at the box office this five-day weekend. While it may not hit the cultural-phenomenon numbers of the first film, it’s pacing slightly ahead of the newest Doctor Strange, showing that the MCU will be forever-dominant regardless of who’s at the helm. 

Of the five new releases, Disney Animation’s Strange World is opening at a relatively soft 18.6m this weekend. That’s fairly poor for a Disney animated film, which have traditionally dominated the Thanksgiving box office: Encanto, released last Thanksgiving, only opened to $40m over the five-day period, and Strange World is poised to do a lot lower. However, as blockbusters shift towards being four-quadrant movies, there are a lot fewer family movies at the box office, and Encanto legged out to almost $100m domestic, became a huge international hit, and then became one of the biggest movies of all time on Disney+. If Strange World can hold on for a month and then premiere on Disney+ in 4-6 weeks, it could be the best of both worlds for Disney. The surprisingly low B CinemaScore (opening night audience survey) could be a hindrance; people suggest conservative parents complaining about LGBTQ+ content, but it’s possible the movie just isn’t satisfactory, as reviews are less strong than the average Disney cartoon. 

Opening in third is a film not even reported on some box office charts: Glass Onion, Rian Johnson’s delightful Knives Out follow-up, with 13.3m. This is the first ever Netflix film to play in wide release at all theater chains, and the fact that it’s only playing at 696 theaters and that it received almost no theatrical trailer play means it’s remarkable that it’s doing so well (early Deadline tracking was for 6-8m). Netflix gave Johnson a one-week-only theatrical release before the 12/23 streaming release, and even though they barely report their own box office, it’s clearly paying out for them. The first Knives Out became a word-of-mouth smash hit (300 million!), and Glass Onion could do just as well, but since Netflix hates money and success it won’t get to. Shame! 

Opening in fourth with 9m is Korean War fighter-plane movie Devotion, boasting two interesting but not A-list stars (Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell) and generally positive reviews. It cost 90 million dollars, and this is the type of movie that could never recoup that in theaters (unless your name is Top Gun: Maverick), but a 10m opening for an adult drama is fine at this point. 

The week’s fourth and fifth new wide releases are opening at seventh and eighth: The Fabelmans and Bones and All, both with about 3m. Both Luca Guadagnino’s cannibal romance and Steven Spielberg’s quasi-autobiography have been screening in NYC/LA for a couple weeks but are making their major debuts this weekend. MGM is surely happy with Bones and All, as a graphically violent cannibal movie with no major stars (Timothee Chalamet, Taylor Russell, and Mark Rylance) has already picked up several major nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature. It’s the kind of mid-budget movie that gets low-budget results at the box office but can play well with arthouse audiences over time. The Fabelmans, however, is a bit more disappointing considering that it comes from Spielberg, one of the most popular and recognizable directors. I haven’t seen it yet, but notices all say it’s outstanding: will the muted box office performance impact its chances at Hollywood’s biggest night? It’s worth noting that it’s only playing at 600 theaters, 25% as many as Bones and All has. 

In holdover news, Searchlight’s (surprisingly terrific) dark comedy The Menu has landed in fifth place while Universal’s (not very terrific) true-story journalism drama She Said has dropped out of the top 10. Black Adam and Ticket to Paradise continue to do well, and so does The Chosen Season 3, a special event presentation of a Christian TV show that overperformed so well last week that it got kept around for a second week. After the success of The Chosen, the natural question arises: will Netflix book a second week of Glass Onion screenings? Even if you don’t think it’s as good as the first one, its clues and puzzles certainly reward a second viewing: I know I would go again in a week or two. 

As much as people like to whine about how theaters are dead, there’s still a large variability of art at the box office, and audiences have plenty of great films to enjoy if they want to. See you next week with only one new release: David Harbour as an action-comedy Santa in Violent Night.

All data courtesy of Box Office Mojo.