With Christmas less than two weeks away, the box office is starting to heat up thanks to the release of Jumanji: The Next Level, which surpassed just about all expectations for its first weekend, grossing $60.1 million. That gross is not only above predecessor Welcome to the Jungle‘s $36.2 million first weekend gross, it’s above that film’s 5-day opening of $52.8 million. This all shouldn’t be surprising considering Jungle‘s incredible legs that carried it to a final total of over $400 million, but there was skepticism around how much audiences would rush back for another installment, with Sony guessing a $35 million opening and most industry expectations maxing out at $50 million.
The most promising sign for The Next Level‘s future prospects is not just the opening weekend, but its daily pattern. Even after its opening day of $19.55 million (which included $4.7 million from Thursday previews), expectations were still set for a $50-55 million weekend. However, the film had a strong Saturday gross of $23.4 million, a strong 58% increase from the raw Friday number that indicates strong family appeal and a lack of frontloading typical for a sequel. The film should have a large decline next weekend due to the opening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but once Christmas Day hits, the film should hold well as the #2 option for most moviegoers after Skywalker. Holiday legs are hard to figure out, but a final total somewhere north of $250 million looks likely.
While The Next Level exceeded even the highest opening weekend expectations, the other two new openers went below just about all possible expectations. Opening in 4th place this weekend, Richard Jewell grossed $5 million. Adjusted for inflation, that is the lowest opening weekend gross for a Clint Eastwood film ever, and unadjusted it is only better than Bronco Billy‘s $3.7 million opening from 1980. There was some hope that the film could tap into the same heartland audience that came out strong for Eastwood’s recent hits like The Mule, Sully, and American Sniper, but this film ultimately lacked a few things that boosted those films. While Jewell had Oscar winners Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates in major roles, no one in the film is much of a box office draw on their own the way Tom Hanks, Bradley Cooper, or Eastwood himself (in front of the camera) can be.
Warner Bros. attempted to sell Jewell in a manner similar to Sully, with both films telling the story of a real-life hero that a group of people attempt to railroad, but Sully was based on a more recent, more popular, and more inherently cinematic story, and again had Tom Hanks at the center of the story instead of a relative unknown like Paul Walter Hauser. While holiday legs will help out the film in the long run, even a multiplier similar to last year’s The Mule (which opened on the same pre-pre-Christmas weekend) carries it to a total just under $30 million. If it falls below $32 million, it would be Eastwood’s lowest grossing English-language film since 2002’s Blood Work, his last film before his critical resurgence brought about by Mystic River.
The other new weekend opener, Black Christmas, came in fifth with a $4.4 million gross. Despite being the first new horror film in wide release in over the month, this was one of the worst opening weekends this year for a horror film, and the worst opening weekend for a super-wide Blumhouse release in a long while. This second attempt at remaking the 1974 cult classic seemed better-positioned than the first attempt in 2006, which grossed $3.3 million on its opening day, December 25, before crashing to a $16.2 million total. However, with this small of a weekend start, and with a D+ Cinemascore, the film is unlikely to survive much longer than that film did, and will probably finish with a final total under $10 million.
Two more films got off to fantastic starts in limited release prior to their nationwide launches in the coming weeks. A24’s Uncut Gems broke that studio’s record for largest per-theater-average of all time while having the year’s second best PTA, grossing an average $105,100 from five theaters each for a $525,498 weekend. That PTA is not too far off from the adjusted opening per-theater-average of 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love, which in 2019 dollars would be around $115,000. That film’s final total adjusts to $27.9 million, and with a Christmas Day nationwide expansion, a final total in that range for Gems is not out of reach. Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s Bombshell overcame mixed reviews to gross $312,100 from four theaters for a $78,025 per-theater-average. The film enters wide release next weekend, and while a film about the cable news industry was likely to have strong metro appeal, a PTA start that high could be a promising sign for strong general appeal.
1. Jumanji: The Next Level – $60.1 million (NEW)
2. Frozen II – $19.2 million (-45%)
3. Knives Out – $9.25 million (-35%)
4. Richard Jewell – $5 million (NEW)
5. Black Christmas – $4.4 million (NEW)
6. Ford v Ferrari – $4.1 million (-38%)
7. Queen & Slim – $3.6 million (-46%)
8. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood $3.4 million (-35%)
9. Dark Waters – $2 million (-50%)
10. 21 Bridges – $1.2 million (-58%)