Momentum Returns as BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER, AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER and BLACK ADAM Lead the Way
This year’s fourth quarter began on Friday 10/7/22 and will run through Thursday 1/5/23, covering film weeks 40-52 of 2022. Much is expected from the quarter after a VERY SLUGGISH Q3 that sapped momentum from the industry’s post-pandemic recovery. After walking away from August and September, studios have assembled a lineup with the potential to compete favorably with the fourth quarters of both 2019 and 2021.
A box office resurgence over the next three months would be a critical step on the long road back from the pandemic. Here is our forecast for the most important Q4 titles, with an estimated total gross for each film indicated in parenthesis.
OCTOBER: The quarter begins on October 7th with the release of Sony’s LYLE, LYLE, CROCODILE ($70M), which should draw family audiences in numbers back to theatres for the first time since mid-summer. 20th Century Studios’ R-rated suspense drama AMSTERDAM ($55M) will also open that same weekend, directed by David O. Russell and featuring an all-star cast led by Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, and Robert DeNiro. AMSTERDAM should appeal to an older demographic and give the first week of the quarter a one-two punch.
October 14th brings HALLOWEEN ENDS ($80M), the final installment of the 45-year-old horror franchise. Once again, Jamie Lee Curtis plays Laurie Strode and does battle with Michael Meyers. While this film should appeal to audiences, exhibitors were disappointed when Universal made the decision to release it simultaneously to theatres and streaming on Peacock. BLACK ADAM ($230M) arrives on October 21st.
With Dwayne Johnson in the title role, the Warner Bros./ DC Comics action superhero movie has breakout potential and should wind up with the third top gross of the quarter. The romantic comedy TICKET TO PARADISE ($50M) also opens on 10/21, with two headliners – George Clooney and Julia Roberts – trying to breathe new life into a genre that has languished for several years. Not much is expected from the two wide releases opening on 10/28, THE DEVILS LIGHT ($24M) and TAR ($13M). Both will suffer from the pattern of a low box office during Halloween weekend.
All in all, we expect October to set the table for an overall upturn in moviegoing to close out the year.
NOVEMBER: No wide releases are currently scheduled for 11/4, as studios make way for the following weekend’s opening on 11/11 of Disney/Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER ($480M), which should be the top-grossing picture of the quarter. Considering that the original BLACK PANTHER grossed $700M in 2018, our projection for this year’s sequel may prove to be conservative.
On November 18th, two movies open that will not contribute much to the quarterly totals. They are, SHE SAID ($27M), the true story of two journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations, and THE MENU ($12M), a black comedy horror film that stars Ralph Fiennes as a world-famous chef who creates unusual dining concepts.
This gets us to 11/23, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when Disney will release STRANGE WORLD ($140M). This box office projection is on the lower end of the results for Disney’s past animated features. Since the production cost of a high-end animated movie now runs over $150M+, it will require worldwide enthusiasm for this movie to turn a profit. Also on 11/23, Steven Spielberg’s THE FABLEMANS ($45M) will expand wide after a very limited initial run begins on 11/11.
This somewhat autobiographical film details a young man’s exposure to the power and wonder of filmmaking. DEVOTION ($39M) will round out the Thanksgiving lineup, telling the story of two Korean War wingmen, one black and one white, who achieve success by trusting in each other’s instincts. It may sound like TOP GUN: KOREA, but it will not break out.
DECEMBER: On 12/2, the low-budget suspense film VIOLENT NIGHT ($16M) hits theatres, with Santa Claus playing the hero in a Christmas Eve home invasion story. 12/9 brings Darren Aronofsky’s THE WHALE ($18M), the story of a reclusive and obese English teacher who attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter.
Brendan Fraser is drawing early Oscar buzz for his performance in the lead role. EMPIRE OF LIGHT ($14M) also opens on 12/9, a love story set in an English coastal cinema in the 1980s. HOUSE PARTY ($14M) will also debut on 12/9, filling the obligatory slot of an urban comedy in the holiday season.
After seemingly endless promotional hype, AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER ($430M) will finally arrive in theatres on 12/16. James Cameron’s AVATAR sequel should produce the second-highest gross of any movie during the quarter. The original movie which arrived in 2009 is closing in on a total North American box office of $800M, with $20M of that contributed by last month’s re-release.
The original set the bar so high that this year’s sequel may not be able to meet it. The biggest open question is whether moviegoers are still as interested in seeing a 3D movie as they were 13 years ago. September’s re-issue produced only so-so results, leaving the answer to this question still unclear. Regardless, the movie will open huge and carry theatres through the final weeks of the year. Universal will try to counter-program with a 12/16 opening of A MAN CALLED OTTO ($33M), starring Tom Hanks. The movie tells the story of a severely depressed widower who is saved from suicidal thoughts by new, noisy neighbors.
The last of the quarter’s wide releases will arrive on 12/23, led by DreamWorks’ PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH ($65M). The animated feature is a sequel to the original PUSS AND BOOTS which earned $149M in 2011 and should have the younger, family audience all to itself. The Whitney Houston biopic I WANT TO DANCE ($37M) also opens on 12/23, hoping to follow on the success of musical-themed biographies in recent years.
Here are comparisons of the box office results for the Top 10 movies from Q4 2022 (estimated), alongside the Top 10 from Q4 of 2021 and 2019 (actuals).
The Domestic box office for Q4 2022 should come in at just over $2B, a similar performance to last year’s Q4 which was led by (the amazing) SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Still, 2022 Q4 will fall short of the good ol’ days of Q4 2019, when North American theatres sold $2.8B.