‘M3GAN’ Challenges James Cameron: Here’s What a Great Start to 2023 Box Office Looks Like

Films from Blumhouse and James Cameron each grossed over $30 million, achieving something that happened on only four weekends in 2022.

Two films grossing over $30 million: This is a fine way to start 2023 box office. Led by the continued strong showing for “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) and Blumhouse Prods.’ inventive horror title “M3GAN” (Universal), the first weekend of the year achieved something that happened only four times in 2022. (And all were in June and July).

Other positive signs included stronger than normal holds for a post-holiday weekend, when grosses usually decline. Add a better-than-expected performance by “A Man Called Otto” (Sony) in its initial expansion. After a dreary Christmas, the improvement is welcome.

This weekend totaled about a $106 million, up from last weekend’s $103 million — rock bottom for its date. Also encouraging: Through the first eight days of the year, the U.S./Canada box office total is about $216 million. That’s 44 percent higher than January 1-8, 2022.

“M3GAN,” with excellent reviews and an adequate B Cinemascore (fine for a horror film), expected $25 million at best. Instead, at $30.2 million, it opened a third better than “Smile” (Paramount), similar to “Scream” (Paramount) a year ago, better than “Black Phone” and more than double “Violent Night” (both also from Universal).

Notable is that its Saturday gross rose more than 25 percent from Friday, without adding in preview grosses. That is very rare for genre films, and a definite sign of excellent word of mouth. That suggests the real potential to become the year’s first $100 million release.

Behind the scenes of “Avatar: The Way of Water”

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Way of Water” grossed $45 million this weekend to retain the #1 spot, falling only 33 percent off a weekend that included a Sunday boosted by New Years Day. Its domestic total of $516 million (over $1.7 billion worldwide) shows post-holiday major strength.

“A Man Called Otto,” which grossed only $85,000 in its first week with four prime platform dates, grossed $4.2 million in 637 theaters to place #4. That significantly outpaces “The Fabelmans” (Universal) in its five-theater platform expansion over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. Steven Spielberg’s film had stellar reviews, which “Otto” does not. Sony has not yet provided a Cinemascore, but its slight increase Saturday might be a positive sign for word of mouth. “Otto” goes nationwide next weekend.

Other than “Violent Night,” all other top 10 holdovers fell 45 percent or less; “Babylon” (Paramount) fell less than 40 percent. That suggests increased market strength; normally, strong performances from two top titles takes a toll on other films.

All that said, grosses are still significantly down. Without calculating the 20 percent or higher current ticket prices, the weekend is about 75 percent of the initial weekend in 2019 and 2020. Our ongoing four-week rolling comparison to three years ago has improved, but still to only 59 percent.

Apart from the adult appeal for “Otto,” both #7 “The Whale” (A24) and #10 “The Menu” (Searchlight) continue their steady top 10 performances. Off the list is “Fabelmans,” which dropped 43 percent, but it will hang around as it gets ongoing awards attention.

Rooney Mara Women Talking

“Women Talking”

Michael Gibson

Several recent limited releases are going wider. Some have per-theater averages in the $4,000-5,000 range, but “Corsage” (IFC) from Austria went the widest (317) with a PTA of only $789. “Women Talking” (United Artists) had the highest, with $4,923 benefiting from playing far fewer (29) theaters. Sarah Polley’s acclaimed film needs a boost from possible nominations ahead. It goes to around 75 theaters next week.

The Top 10 

1. Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #1

$45,000,000 (-33%) in 4,340 (+138) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $10,369; Cumulative: $516,790,000

2. M3GAN (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 72; est. budget: $17 million

$30,200,000 in 3,509 theaters; PTA: $8,606; Cumulative: $30,200,000

3. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #2; also on PVOD

$13,120,000 (-22%) in 3,919 (-202) theaters; PTA: $3,348,; Cumulative: $87,706,000

4. A Man Called Otto (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #18

$4,200,000 in 637 (+633) theaters; PTA: $6,593; Cumulative: $4,285,000

5. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney) Week 9; Last weekend #3

$3,398,000 (-34%) in 2,255 theaters (-55) in 2,310 (+60) theaters; PTA: $1,507; Cumulative: $445,438,000

6. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$2,400,000 (-39%) in 3,184 (-441) theaters; PTA: $754; Cumulative: $19,699,000

7. The Whale (A24) Week 5; Last weekend #7

$1,541,000 (+9%) in 835 (-15) theaters; PTA: $1,846; Cumulative: $8,583,000

8. Babylon (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend #5

$1,430,000 (-45%) in 2.381 (-970) theaters; PTA: $601; Cumulative: $13,524,000

9. Violent Night (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #6; also on PVOD

$740,000 (-65%) in 1,981 (-582) theaters; PTA: $1,981; Cumulative: $49,421,000

10. The Menu (Searchlight) Week 7; Last weekend #9

$713,000 (-35%) in 80 (-60) theaters; PTA: $891; Cumulative: $37,656,000


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 two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are tracked.

Broker (Neon) Week 2

$75,000 in 17 (+14) theaters; PTA: $4,412; Cumulative: $149,227

Turn Every Page (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2

$17,425 in 4 (+2) theaters; PTA: $4,356; Cumulative: $39,671

Corsage (IFC) Week 3

$250,000 in 317 (+314) theaters; PTA: $789; Cumulative: $340,789

Women Talking (United Artists) Week 3

$142,769 in 29 (+21) theaters;  PTA: $4,923; Cumulative: $340,000

Living (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$42,594 in 11 (+8) theaters; PTA: $4,356; Cumulative: $120,442

No Bears (Janus) Week 3

$7,400 in 1 (no change); PTA: $7,400; Cumulative: $38,545

Empire of Light (Searchlight) Week 5

$47,000 in 120 (-180) theaters;  Cumulative: $1,091,000

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) Week 7

$17,000 in 24 (-2) theaters; Cumulative: $325,805

The Fabelmans (Universal) Week 8; also on PVOD

$590,000 in 998 (-251) theaters; Cumulative: $13,359,000

EO (Janus) Week 8

$65,000 in 45 (+1) theaters; Cumulative: $553,909

The Holy Spider (Utopia) Week 11

$8,031 in 10 (+9) theaters; Cumulative: $225,133

The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight) Week 13; also on HBO Max and PVOD

$53,000 in 55 (-20) theaters; Cumulative: $9,162,000

TÁR (Focus) Week 14; also on PVOD

$55,000 in 52 (+7) theaters; Cumulative: $5,695,000

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‘M3GAN’ Challenges James Cameron: Here’s What a Great Start to 2023 Box Office Looks Like

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