Pre-Christmas Box Office: Severe Winter Weather Shutters Cinemas & Takes Toll On Ticket Sales With Most New Pics Off; ‘Avatar 2’ Eyes $83M 4-Day

Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water, Babylon, Breaking News, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Movies, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, The Whale

FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Close to eighty cinemas have shuttered today as Winter Storm Elliott tears up the Midwest, 1.3M lose power, and many cities such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Tallahassee set to see record cold Christmas Eve temperatures per the National Weather Service.

Multiplexes in such cities as Cleveland (16 turning off the lights), Indianapolis (14), Buffalo (13), Cincinnati (11) and Portland, OR (10) have shuttered due to brutal weather.

All of this is currently resulting in lower-than-expected weekend projections, which will hopefully correct by Christmas Day Sunday. Already, business will be down around a daily average of -50% on Christmas Eve Saturday as is typical for that day’s business.

20th Century/Disney’s Avatar: The Way of Water is pacing 37% ahead of yesterday’s revised $14.6M for a $20M Friday, which will put it on track for $83M 4-day, -45% from the pic’s first 4 days. Hopefully, the sequel will hit $90M at 4,202 theaters, if business shifts. That will put the pic’s 11-day box office at $280.7M.

Second belongs to Universal/Dreamworks Animation’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish with $3.75M today at 4,099 theaters, +29% from yesterday, for a $11M 3-day, $17.2M 4-day and 6-day of $24.1M.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody from Tri-Star/Compelling Pictures/Black Label is looking at $2.2M today (including last night’s previews), $6.3M for the weekend and $9M over 4 days at 3,625 theaters. Sony is getting a distribution free for handling with financiers recouping the P&A spend. Rotten Tomatoes critics don’t like it at 46%, but audiences love it at 94%.

Li Jun Li in 'Babylon'

Paramount’s Babylon at 3,343 theaters is seeing $1.6M today, including previews, a 3-day of $4.5M and 4-day of $6.5M in fourth. Critics’ score landed at 55% Rotten, with audience score better at 74%.

Fifth place belongs to Universal’s Violent Night at 2,526 locations with a fourth Friday of $1.1M, -21% from a week ago, for a 3-day of $2.95M, -42% and 4-day of $3.86M and running total of $42.3M.

FRIDAY AM, PREVIOUS: We’re hearing that bad weather in the Midwest significantly impacted Thursday grosses with Winter Storm Elliott intensifying into a bomb cyclone. As of this morning, more than 1 million customers are without power across the country, around 4K flights canceled and wind chill in the -20 to -30 degree range as the country gets hammered by severe winter conditions.

Avatar: The Way of Water was up only 1% from Wednesday with $14.5M for a week’s total of $197.5M at 4,202 theaters, 4% behind the first week of Top Gun: Maverick which, natch, was boosted by its Memorial Day Monday. Global is at $661.4M for the 20th Century Studios/Disney release.

Today in its 8th day at the box office, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water will cross $200M in U.S./Canada. Other films that have taken that long to cross the double century mark stateside include Captain Marvel (final gross $426.8M), Jurassic World: Dominion (final $376M) and Thor: Love and Thunder (final $343.2M).

Christmas weekend will be wonky at the box office with Christmas Eve falling on Saturday. Not only is that a down day at the box office, with most movies off -45% to -55% from the day prior, but there’s 11 NFL games alone on Saturday.

Universal/Dreamworks Animation’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish made $2.9M in its second day, -9%, for a two-day total of $6.1M at 4,099 theaters.

Tri-Star/Compelling Pictures/Black Label’s Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody grossed $730K from 3,093 locations off previews that began at 2PM yesterday. While no official comps are being given, that preview cash isn’t that far from the $800K that West Side Story made on its Thursday night off showtimes that began at 5PM ($10.5M 3-day) a year ago and it’s just under what Universal’s all-femme title Sisters did on its Thursday night back on Dec. 17, 2015 ($769K) which resulted in a $13.9M opening. I Wanna Dance With Somebody is expected to open to around $12M over four days at 3,550 locations.

Third place among regular ranked titles Thursday went to Disney/Marvel Studio’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at 3,200 sites with $906K, +1% from Wednesday and a running total at end of week 6 of $422.6M.

Fourth is Universal’s Violent Night at 3,528 theaters with $792K, -4% from Wednesday, and running domestic total of $38.4M at end of week 3. The genre action title is 137% ahead of Universal’s Black Christmas which finaled at $16.2M and $200K ahead of the studio’s 2015 holiday horror comedy Krampus at the same point in time which ultimately ended its domestic box office at $42.7M.

A24’s The Whale ranked 5th at 603 theaters with $273K, -60% from Wednesday, and a running total through the end of week 2 of $1.55M.

No grosses reported this AM for Babylon‘s previews. The hope is that this Damien Chazelle directed movie, which Paramount has supported greatly, earning five Golden Globe nominations, will be north of double digits over 4 days.

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