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Friday, February 16, 2024

Wonka” Debuts Strong Amidst Musical Challenges

Wonka's sweet symphony strikes a chord at the box office, as Timothée Chalamet's charisma leads a musical revival amidst the diverse lineup of holiday contenders.

The musical film “Wonka,” starring Timothée Chalamet, made an impressive debut with $39 million in box office sales in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the weekend. This marked a robust start for the Willy Wonka prequel, emphasizing Chalamet’s growing popularity, following his success with “Dune” in 2021.

Musicals have faced challenges at the box office in recent years, leading Warner Bros. to downplay the musical elements in the film’s marketing. Instead, the focus was on Chalamet’s charisma, positioning him as a major draw for audiences. “Wonka,” with a production cost of about $125 million, played at 4,203 locations and became the first significant Hollywood release following the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike.

Chalamet’s post-strike promotional efforts, including hosting “Saturday Night Live,” played a crucial role in the film’s success. Jeffrey Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ distribution chief, emphasized the power of a star and their influence on a movie’s performance. The positive audience reaction and good reviews (84% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes) position “Wonka” as a favorable choice for families during the holiday season.

Holiday Movie Season Kick-Starts with “Wonka”

As a prequel to the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” directed by Paul King, “Wonka” explores the origins of the iconic candy maker. Chalamet leads an ensemble cast that includes Hugh Grant, Olivia Colman, and Keegan-Michael Key. To achieve success comparable to the 2005 Tim Burton-directed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which grossed $475 million worldwide, “Wonka” needs sustained box office performance during the lucrative holiday moviegoing period.

With its overseas ticket sales reaching $53.6 million, “Wonka” is drawing a diverse audience, particularly appealing to moviegoers under the age of 25, who accounted for 36% of viewers. The film’s success sets the stage for Warner Bros.’ trio of high-profile holiday releases, including “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” on Dec. 22 and the musical “The Color Purple” on Dec. 25.

Diverse Box Office Landscape and Award Contenders

While “Wonka” dominated the box office, other films also made notable performances. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” secured the second position with $5.8 million in its fifth week of release, reaching a domestic total of $145.2 million. “The Boy and the Heron,” last week’s top film, dipped to third place with $5.1 million in its second week.

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Beyond box office hits, several award contenders aimed to make an impact following the Golden Globes nominations. Films like “Poor Things,” “American Fiction,” and “The Zone of Interest” expanded into theaters, showcasing a diverse array of genres and stories. These films, recognized for their artistic merit, aim to leave a mark in the competitive landscape of holiday cinema.

Box Office Numbers and Future Prospects

The box office rankings for the weekend are as follows:

  1. “Wonka” – $39 million
  2. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” – $5.8 million
  3. “The Boy and the Heron” – $5.2 million
  4. “Godzilla Minus One” – $4.9 million
  5. “Trolls Band Together” – $4 million
  6. “Wish” – $3.2 million
  7. “Christmas With the Chosen: Holy Night” – $2.9 million
  8. “Napoleon” – $2.2 million
  9. “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” – $2 million
  10. “Poor Things” – $1.3 million

As the holiday movie season unfolds, the performance of “Wonka” sets the tone for the industry, showcasing the enduring appeal of musicals and the influence of star power in shaping box office success.