‘Wonka’ hits the sweet spot, tops box office on opening weekend

Dec 17, 2023, 5:47 PM

Timothée Chalamet appears as Willy Wonka and Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa in "Wonka." (Jaap Buitt...

Timothée Chalamet appears as Willy Wonka and Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa in "Wonka." (Jaap Buittendijk, Warner Bros. Pictures)

(Jaap Buittendijk, Warner Bros. Pictures)

 (CNN) — “Wonka,” the whimsical origin story of the fictional chocolatier, secured the top spot in domestic theaters this weekend with an estimated $39 million in sales.

The musical fantasy film beat out another prequel, “Hunger Games: A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” for the No. 1 slot and is off to a promising start, according to industry analysts. It also opened as the the No. 1 film worldwide, grossing more than $151 million.

It follows a young Willy Wonka before he became the enigmatic chocolate factory owner from Roald Dahl’s 1964 book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Timothée Chalamet, who plays the titular character, is the third Wonka iteration to grace the silver screen. He follows in the footsteps of Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, who took on the character in 1971 and 2005, respectively.

The popularity of the “Wonka” movie

The film has been well received by both critics and audiences. So far, it has found its primary fanbase with women and girls under the age of 25, according to Warner Bros.

“Wonka” could also be a strong draw for families with children heading into the holiday break, appealing to the nostalgia of parents who grew up watching the 1971 movie.

“The holiday period is a time where families are hungry for entertainment and a PG-rated musical like ‘Wonka’ is just the ticket for this audience that, over the next couple of weeks, will have the film on their must-see list,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “This, along with great reviews, should ensure long-term playability for the film.”

After a disappointing November at the box office, studios and theaters are eager to make up lost revenue before the year ends. According to Comscore, domestic theaters in 2023 are expected to gross $9 billion, but are still lagging behind the mark.

“Though we are only $417 million away from $9 billion, that could still prove to be an elusive target even with ‘Wonka’ and more high-profile titles set for release on Friday and on Christmas Day,” said Dergarabedian.

December box office numbers are key

December box office totals are also important to make sure the industry enters 2024 on the right foot and with strong momentum. Historically, box office sales throughout the last two weeks of the year have made up between six and nine percent of the year’s total earnings, according to Comscore data. This year, a number of movies, including “The Color Purple” and “Ferrari,” are opening on Christmas Day. That means “they only have seven days to add to the bottom line for the calendar year,” said Dergarabedian, making it potentially difficult for them to add too much to the year’s revenue.

But those seven days also coincide with the lucrative holiday season where consumers are looking for fun ways to spend their free time.

“The long holiday vacation period provides a long runway of moviegoing,” said Warner Bros. President of Domestic Distribution Jeff Goldstein. “With an A- CinemaScore, 84% Certified Fresh RT and 90% Audience RT score, ‘Wonka’  is in for a very exciting and long global run.”

“Wonka” is distributed by Warner Bros., which is owned by CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.

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‘Wonka’ hits the sweet spot, tops box office on opening weekend