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.

Contact us for information about subscribing to Boxoffice.com’s suite of forecasting and data services.

Shawn Robbins

22 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Multiplex37 December 19, 2018

    Thanks for the extra projections, folks! Things look pretty solid but I think you might be a bit low on Bumblebee. If I were involved in a “fantasy movie league” and could only play one movie…that would be the one. Call it a Big Mem Advisory if you will.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      ramon carter December 20, 2018

      agree im thinkin bumblebee can pull more than 22mill for the weekend i say 30 to 35mill

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Jackie Cooper December 19, 2018

    “Mary Poppins Returns” will drop like a rock once word of mouth circulates.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Ed December 20, 2018

      No

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Jacen December 20, 2018

      You were wrong over on Deadline, and you’re wrong here.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      manofbronze December 21, 2018

      troll

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Tomahawk Jones December 19, 2018

    I really, REALLY, LOVE cheese pizza.

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Will December 20, 2018

    Aquaman was amazing…The visuals and action sequences were fantastic….I can’t wait to see it again this weekend in IMAX.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      TTVOMJ December 20, 2018

      my gf commented how sharks and some other animals looked fake…i looked at her “like wtf!?”..only beginning of the movie up until the orm/nareus retaliation looked rendered…and the avatarian underwater fluorescence…i would cut some action/costs for some more dialogue…specially arthur with his dad..his dad with atlana and sure..why not some more mera/orm/arthur triangle? action was spectacular, i could follow it, but i have a feeling cynics will try to make it overwhelming and goofy…i give the movie 7/10…wonder woman is still the best..then man of steel, aquaman etc from DCEU…

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Charles December 20, 2018

        Some CGI can be flawlessly rendered and still not look convincingly real to some people. I think there are some things that you just can’t make look real. That’s how I felt about some the vfx in Aquaman. When you use as much cgi as they did, that’s just bound to happen.

        Reply
        • Avatar
          manofbronze December 20, 2018

          kinda disagree. Avatar was made in 2009 and its still looks better than Aquaman.

          Reply
          • Avatar
            Ed December 20, 2018

            I willl say no

          • Avatar
            navtej singh December 20, 2018

            lol have you seen Avatar recently, it looks dated

          • Avatar
            manofbronze December 21, 2018

            someone is smoking something….

        • Avatar
          Jacen December 20, 2018

          I think there’s also a tendency in some people to react negatively against VFX–or perceived VFX–in order to seem knowledgeable, cool, hip, whatever. Thus, they can see a nature documentary and complain about the “obvious CG animals” because they’ve never seen the animals in question and thus assume that they are rendered. I have yet to read anything like that happening, but I expect it soon, because I’ve read too many online complaints about “fake looking CG” when in fact the things being disparaged were physical sets, costumes, or make up.

          Reply
          • Avatar
            Charles December 21, 2018

            No, Jacen. It’s subjective. You can’t tell someone: “If you’d just educate yourself on xyz, you’d think this looks convincingly real.” Doesn’t work like that. If it doesn’t look real to them, it just doesn’t. That’s the point I was making in response to TTVOMJ’s dismissal the gf’s opinion on some of Aquaman’s vfx.

          • Avatar
            Jacen December 21, 2018

            Charles, my point had nothing to do with education or objectivity. Rather, I was addressing what I see as a tendency among some to react negatively toward something just to appear smart or objective or whatever. It’s a lot easier to be negative than positive, and part of the tendency toward that ease is, I think, borne out of fear of perceived weakness (i.e. “If I like this thing and I’m wrong, people will mock me”).

  5. Avatar
    Ann Seeber December 20, 2018

    Please check your links in your email newsletters, they mostly return “Page Not Found” .. I only got to this one by clicking on the image, the headline titles did not work.

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    Maru December 20, 2018

    Aquaman is epic, excellent movie , the best of the year.

    Reply
  7. Avatar
    Dustin December 20, 2018

    Bumblebee is gonna surprise big time.

    Reply
  8. Avatar
    BDTrooper December 21, 2018

    Haven’t seen Aquaman yet, but the visuals look amazing. That said, there does seem to be a difference between the way the visual f/x look between Marvel and DC movies. The Marvel films just have a more natural look for the most part, especially when compared to BvS and Justice League. Offhand, I don’t know what f/x houses they use and if that makes a difference, or if it’s just the way Marvel and DC do their thing. Today’s audiences are probably jaded, having grown up during CGI. I don’t know if they could even appreciate the imaginative work of people like Ray Harryhausen, Dick Smith, Rick Baker and others.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Jacen December 21, 2018

      It could be the FX houses or it could be a stylistic choice. Consider the early Harry Potter films vs the Lord of the Rings films. Getting past whether you felt they both had “obvious CG” one thing we should agree on is that LotR tried to go for more “realistic” designs and implementations, whereas the initial HP films had less “realistic” but more comical and charming designs. The results were appropriate for each series and established unique tones for each.
      Charles, are you paying attention? Consider this an addendum to my reply.

      Reply

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