April 21, 2024

Wonka,” a fantasy musical starring Timothée Chalamet as the eccentric chocolatier, charmed in its box office debut, collecting $39 million over the weekend.

It’s a sweet start, as long as the $125 million-budgeted family film has momentum around the holidays. The good news for Warner Bros. is that December releases rarely generate huge opening weekends but tend to stick around on the big screen and show staying power through the new year. To that end, it’s promising that “Wonka” landed an “A-” CinemaScore from audiences. Critics have been kind as well, bestowing “Wonka” with an 83% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a sign the PG film will be able to endure against competition from upcoming releases such as Universal and Illumination’s animated “Migration,” Warner’s musical adaptation of “The Color Purple” and the DC Comics sequel “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”

“‘Wonka’ has the right tone for the holidays and momentum is very good,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “Critics’ reviews and audience scores are strong, and the genre performs well overseas.”

“Wonka” helps cement the star power of Chalamet, the third actor to play the beloved Roald Dahl character that Gene Wilder originated in 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and Johnny Depp later embodied in the 2005 remake. The 27-year-old Chalamet has led blockbusters like “Dune” and indie favorites such as “Call Me By Your Name” and “Little Women,” but “Wonka” is the kind of execution-dependent family film that doesn’t work unless audiences buy into Chalamet’s songs and dances about a world of pure imagination. The prequel, directed by “Paddington” filmmaker Paul King and co-starring Olivia Colman, Keegan-Michael Key and Hugh Grant as an Oompa-Loompa, centers on the early days of Willy Wonka and takes place long before a poor boy named Charlie Bucket wins a golden ticket to tour the world-famous and heavily guarded chocolate factory.

“Wonka” already opened at the international box office, where it has earned $43 million.

With “Wonka” as this weekend’s only new nationwide release, holdovers like Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” and director Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” rounded out box office charts.

In second place, “The Hunger Games” prequel added $6.1 million from 3,291 theaters in its fifth weekend of release. The movie has impressively remained in the top two since its November debut and has generated $145 million domestically and $300 million globally to date.

“The Boy and the Heron” slid to the No. 3 slot with $5.1 million from 2,325 locations over the weekend. The animated fantasy epic topped the box office last weekend with $13 million and has grossed $23.1 million so far. “The Boy and the Heron” was released in Japan and other international markets earlier this year, with global ticket sales surpassing $100 million.

“Godzilla Minus One,” a foreign language science-fiction action film, landed in forth place with $4.8 million from 2,622 venues. It has been a success for the genre, earning $30 million domestically on its $15 million budget.

Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls Band Together” took the No. 5 spot with $4 million. After five weeks of release, the jukebox musical has amassed $88.6 million in North America and $183 million worldwide.

In limited release, A24’s “The Zone of Interest” opened with $124,791 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. It brough in $31,198 per location, which the studio reports as the best per-theater-average for a foreign language film since 2019’s Oscar-winning “Parasite.” Jonathan Glazer’s haunting film, an Auschwitz-set drama about the banality of evil, also hopes to find itself in the awards race. “The Zone of Interest,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival and has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, will remain on four screens throughout the holiday season with a nationwide expansion set to begin in January. 

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