Box Office: ‘The Color Purple’ Trounces ‘Aquaman 2’ With Near-Record $18M Christmas Day Opening

The Color Purple has brought some much-needed cheer to the year-end holiday box office.

The musical — whose producers include Oprah and Steven Spielberg — opened to $18.1 million from 3,142 theaters on Monday, the second best showing ever for a movie opening on Christmas Day and the best since 2009. Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks and Colman Domingo star in Blitz Bazawule’s retelling of the beloved Alice Walker novel, adapted from the Tony-winning Broadway show.

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The record-holder for biggest Christmas Day opening belongs to 2009’s Sherlock Holmes ($24.6 million), not adjusted for inflation.

The George Clooney-directed The Boys in the Boat, another film opening on Christmas Day, also did notably better than expected, with $5.7 million from 2,557 locations. The MGM and Amazon adult drama, starring Joel Edgerton and Callum Turner, joined The Color Purple in earning an A CinemaScore. Michael Mann’s Ferrari, also opening Dec. 25, earned $2.9 million from 2,330 sites after receiving B CinemaScore.

While The Color Purple easily trounced James Wan’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’s Monday gross of $10.6 million, Aquaman 2 is the overall winner of the long Christmas weekend with a four-day opening of $38.3 million from 3,706 theaters domestically. But the superhero sequel — which was also slapped with a meh B CinemaScore — doesn’t have much to crow about after posting one of the lowest starts in the history of the DC Cinematic Universe. The Jason Momoa-led superhero sequel fared better overseas, with $80.1 million from 72 markets and the largest chunk, or $30.4 million, coming from China.

In 2018, the first Aquaman was the king of the year-end holiday when swimming to a three-day opening of $67.9 million over the Dec. 21-23 weekend. Through Christmas Day, which fell on a Tuesday that year, its domestic tally was a rousing $105.4 million (it earned $22 million on Dec. 25). The movie went on to earn $335.1 million domestically and $1.15 billion globally, the best showing ever for a DCEU title, not adjusted for inflation.

Wan’s movie lends further credence to the superhero fatigue theory. Aquaman 2′s opening trails the recent $46.1 million start of box office debacle The Marvels from rival Marvel Studios.

This year’s Christmas box office feast was a mixed blessing. Revenue for the four-day weekend was up 11 percent over the same stretch in 2022, but down 46 percent from 2019, which is considered a key pre-pandemic benchmark. And revenue for the three-day weekend (Dec. 22-24) was up 1 percent over 2022, but down 62 percent behind 2019. Making year-over-year comparisons can be tricky when it comes to the year-end holiday, since Dec. 25 is a moving target.

Warners definitely dominated this year’s holiday marquee, between Aquaman 2, Wonka (also a musical) and The Color Purple.

Wonka, which opened the weekend before the holiday, placed No. 2 on the four-day holiday chart with a take of $28.4 million from 4,213 sites, for a domestic cume of $85.9 million. The Timothée Chalamet-led movie is dazzling overseas, where it has earned $171.3 million to date, for a global tally of $257.2 million through Monday. Wonka and Color Purple are proving that musicals may not be an endangered species after all, and it’s no small feat that The Color Purple placed No. 3 on the holiday chart considering it played just one day.

Coming in No. 4 on the four-day chart was Illumination and Universal’s animated family pic Migration. The tentpole is reporting a four-day opening of $17.5 million, the lowest start in Illumination’s history. The movie is doing muted business so far overseas, for a projected foreign tally of $22 million from 43 markets through Sunday.

The final verdict on Migration won’t be rendered until New Year’s weekend, as there is no more lucrative stretch of the moviegoing year than the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Still, Disney was skewered when Wish posted a five-day start of $32.5 million over Thanksgiving last month.

As with the superhero genre, there is concern across Hollywood about the animated theatrical marketplace.

Columbia/Sony’s edgy romantic comedy Anyone But You unwrapped a fifth-place finish, with an estimated $8 million from 3,055 theaters for the four days. The new pic, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, earned a B+ CinemaScore. (No studio likes anything other than some variation of an A grade for most movies.)

Females made up nearly 80 percent of all patrons buying tickets to see Anyone But You, while males made up at least 66 percent of A24’s Zac Efron-led wrestling drama The Iron Claw, which placed No. 6 with a better-than-expected $6.8 million from 2,774 cinemas.

At the specialty box office, Searchlight Pictures opened Andrew Haigh’s acclaimed All of Us Strangers in four locations in New York and Los Angeles. The awards contender is looking at an estimated location average of $36,000 for four days, the highest of any film on the Christmas weekend chart.

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