Box Office: ‘Avatar 2’ and ‘M3GAN’ Rule Again as Tom Hanks Drama ‘A Man Called Otto’ Beats Expectations

Movie theater operators owe a debt of gratitude to the Na’vi and the new queen of artificial intelligence.

January tends to be a slow time of year at the box office. Yet James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” and Universal’s viral horror movie “M3GAN” continue to slay in North America, prevailing over three new nationwide releases during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

“Avatar 2” remained in first place, for the fifth consecutive weekend, with $31.1 million from 4,045 theaters over the traditional three-day period and an estimated $38.5 million through Monday. Just how popular has “The Way of Water” remained at the box office? Well, to put those numbers in perspective, the science-fiction epic has earned more in its fifth weekend of release than many pandemic-era movies have managed to gross during opening weekend. And it won’t face much box office competition until Disney and Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” debuts at the end of February.

So far, the mega-budgeted Disney and 20th Century tentpole has generated $570 million in North America and a staggering $1.89 billion worldwide. It already ranks as the seventh-biggest global release in history and looks to eventually dethrone 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which stands at No. 6 with $1.91 billion.

Meanwhile, “M3GAN” finished in second place with 17.9 million from 3,605 cinemas over the weekend and an estimated $21.2 million through Monday, a 40% decline from its debut. Those are killer results for “M3GAN,” which cost $12 million to produce and has amassed $59 million to date.

In terms of new offerings, Sony’s “A Man Called Otto,” a tearjerker starring Tom Hanks as a grumpy widower, successfully expanded into wide release, taking in $12.6 million from 3,802 theaters over the traditional weekend and an estimated $15 million through Monday. Those ticket sales were enough for fourth place, behind Universal’s animated adventure “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which stayed particularly strong over the holiday weekend. The family film added $13.4 million over the weekend and $17.3 million through Monday, bringing its domestic tally to $110 million.

After two weeks in limited release, “A Man Called Otto” has generated $21.2 million. It’s one of the rare pandemic-era films aimed at adult audiences to effectively sustain momentum with a traditional platform rollout, which has allowed “A Man Called Otto” to generate positive word-of-mouth.

“This is a very good opening for a character-driven comedy drama, with an excellent turnout by older moviegoers,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. 

Gerard Butler’s action thriller “Plane” and the Warner Bros. remake of “House Party” also opened this weekend, landing in fifth and sixth place, respectively on domestic box office charts.

“Plane” took off with $10 million from 3,023 theaters over the weekend and an estimated $11.6 million through Monday, a decent though unspectacular start for the roughly $25 million-budgeted film. The Lionsgate release, starring Butler as a pilot who saves his passengers from a lightning strike, only to discover things are about to get so much worse, was awarded a “B+” CinemaScore from audiences. Initial ticket buyers were predominately older men, as 77% of crowds over the age of 25 and 55% were male.

“House Party,” meanwhile, flamed out with $3.8 million over the weekend and an estimated $4.5 million through Monday. The reboot of the 1990 comedy classic was commissioned for HBO Max, but the studio opted to release it theatrically. With seemingly little promotion and dismal reviews (it has a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes), “House Party” struggled to attract an audience to the big screen. There’s hope, at least at Warner Bros., that it’ll become a bigger draw by the time the film arrives on streaming. The theatrical release, says Franchise Entertainment Research’s Gross, is “designed to raise the film’s profile before heading to HBO [Max].”

More to come…

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