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‘Wonka’ waltzed in with a $39 million opening

NEW YORK — “Wonka” opened with box office sales of $39 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. It was a strong start for the Timothée Chalamet musical starring Willy Wonka, highlighting the young star’s appeal.

Musicals have become so difficult to sell in theaters in recent years that Warner Bros. downplayed the song-and-dance elements of “Wonka” in trailers. Instead, the studio highlighted 27-year-old actor Chalamet, who earned his second No. 1 movie with “Wonka,” following 2021’s “Dune.” The previous film had recorded an opening of $41 million.

While “Dune” is a sprawling and star-studded sci-fi adventure, “Wonka” relies mainly on Chalamet’s charisma.

“Wonka,” which cost approximately $125 million to produce and opened in 4,203 locations, also became the first major Hollywood film to be released after the end of the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike. Chalamet hosted “Saturday Night Live” just days after the strike ended. In his opening monologue, he sang “a return to this magical world where actors can promote their projects” to the tune of “Pure Imagination”.

“It shows you the power of a star, and it also shows you the power of a moviegoing star,” said Jeffrey Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ distribution chief. “It was a big deal for me to see him there after the strikes ended.” “It’s a win for him and a win for the movie.”

Goldstein expects “Wonka” to be families’ first choice during the holidays. Its main competition for kids will be Universal Pictures’ animated “Exodus.”

Directed by Paul King of “Paddington” and “Paddington 2,” “Wonka” is a prequel to the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” with Chalamet playing a young Wonka trying to open a candy store. The cast of the film includes Hugh Grant, Olivia Colman and Keegan-Michael Key.

Warner Bros. last revived Roald Dahl’s classic, 2005’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. It debuted with $56.2 million and ultimately grossed $475 million worldwide.

To reach those numbers, “Wonka” will need strong legs throughout the lucrative holiday movie season. It has mostly good reviews (84% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes) and positive audience response (“A-” CinemaScore).

Chalamet is also attracting younger ticket buyers. 36% of the audience is cinemagoers under the age of 25, and this proportion is evenly distributed between 51% women and 49% men. “Wonka” added $53.6 million to international ticket sales.

“Chalamet is a true movie star who has been honing his craft and reputation for many years,” says Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore senior media analyst. “Everyone is looking for who the next big movie star is. Is it all about old-school leading men? Chalamet definitely is.”

Warner Bros. This will be the first of three high-profile holiday movies for; This will be followed by “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” on December 22 and another musical, “The Color Purple”, on December 25.

The only other new wide release to hit theaters was Christian-themed distributor Angel Studios’ “Christmas With the Chosen: Holy Night.” It debuted in 2,094 theaters with sales of $2.9 million.

“The Hunger Games: A Song of Songbirds and Snakes” ranked second again this week with $5.8 million in its fifth week of release. The Lionsgate “Hunger Games” prequel remains strong week after week, taking in $145.2 million domestically and more than $300 million worldwide.

Last week’s most watched movie, Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron”, fell to third place with $5.1 million in its second week of release. The 82-year-old Japanese anime master’s latest film has already broken records for Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli and its North American distributor GKids.

The weekend’s other highlight, with most of the top 10 movies in theaters being leftovers, was a group of awards contenders trying to make their mark after Monday’s Golden Globe nominations.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things,” a surreal Frankenstein-like fairy tale starring Emma Stone, expanded into 82 theaters and grossed $1.3 million for Searchlight Pictures. The film, which will expand further in the coming weeks, is nominated for seven Golden Globes, including best comedy and musical.

Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction,” starring Jeffrey Wright as a cynical novelist, opened in seven theaters in three cities with a per-screen average of $32,411. MGM’s “American Fiction,” which has been nominated for two Globes, will expand to 40 theaters next week. It won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Jonathan Glazer’s grisly Holocaust drama “The Zone of Interest,” about a Nazi commander and his family living next door to Auschwitz, opened in four theaters with a per-screen average of $31,198. The Triple Globe-nominated game will have a limited release before expanding in January.

Estimated ticket sales are Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be announced on Monday.

1. “Wonka,” $39 million.

2. “The Hunger Games: A Song 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 Come Together,” $4 million.

6. “I 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.

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