Hot chocolate for the holidays: Wonka tops North America box office


Warner Bros.’ fantasy musical Wonka, boosted by the star power of Timothee Chalamet, enjoyed a sweet opening in North American theaters this weekend after an equally strong debut overseas, industry watchers reported Sunday.

The film took in an estimated $39 million in the United States and Canada for the Friday-through-Sunday period, according to Exhibitor Relations. That came on top of $112 million in tickets sold overseas, where the film opened a week earlier.

“This is an excellent opening,” particularly since family-friendly films released in December tend to build through the holidays, said analyst David A. Gross. “Momentum is very good,” he added.

The film is a prequel, with Chalamet as a younger version of Roald Dahl’s famous chocolatier Willy Wonka, a character first played by Gene Wilder and then Johnny Depp.

Wonka also stars Olivia Colman, Keegan-Michael Key, Sally Hawkins and, in his first appearance as an Oompa-Loompa, Hugh Grant.

Another prequel, Lionsgate’s Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, placed second for the weekend at $5.8 million, showing impressive staying power in its fifth week out.

Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler and Peter Dinklage star in the story about the 10th Hunger Games in the dystopian state of Panem.    

In third place was the animated fantasy The Boy and the Heron, from Studio Ghibli, at $5.2 million. The Japanese film follows 11-year-old Mahito who, during World War II, meets and communes with a talking grey heron after his mother dies in a fire. 

The coming-of-age story from celebrated Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki topped the North American box office last weekend, becoming the first original anime production to do so. 

In fourth was another Japanese production, the sci-fi action film Godzilla Minus One, directed by Takashi Yamazaki and produced by Toho International, at $4.9 million. 

And in fifth was Universal and DreamWorks’ Trolls Band Together at $4 million in its fifth week out. 

The coming week should be a big one for North American theaters, with “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” opening Friday and the new musical version of “The Color Purple” debuting on Christmas Day.

Rounding out the top 10 this weekend were:

Christmas With the Chosen: Holy Night ($3 million)

Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce ($2 million)

Poor Things ($1.3 million)

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