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‘Wakanda Forever’ is number one for fourth straight weekend

Jake Coyle

NEW YORK (AP) – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever kept the box-office crown for the fourth straight weekend, and the comic holiday thriller Violent Night debuted with USD13.3 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday. But the biggest talking point on the weekend was a movie conspicuously absent from theatres.

Had Netflix kept Rian Johnson’s whodunit sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery in theatres, it would have been one of the weekend’s top draws. Last weekend, the streamer – in its first such pact with North America’s top chains – released Glass Onion in about 600 theatres. While significantly less than the 4,000-plus theatres most big movies open in, the Netflix film reportedly grossed about USD15 million – an enviable total for a medium scaled release.

Netflix declined to release ticket sales and pulled Glass Onion last Tuesday, preferring to keep its release limited to a one-week sneak-peak theatrical run before debuting on the streaming service on December 23. Netflix’s focus, its executives have said, is driving subscribers to its streaming service. On Wednesday, chief executive of Netflix Reed Hastings acknowledged the company left “lots” of money on the table in the move.

So instead of feasting on Glass Onion, as ticket buyers did after Thanksgiving in 2019 when Lionsgate released Knives Out, moviegoers were fed mostly leftovers this weekend.

For four weeks, the Walt Disney Co’s Wakanda Forever has ruled the box office. Ryan Coogler’s Marvel movie has totalled USD733 million globally, including USD339 million in overseas sales.

Violent Night was the only new wide release in cinemas. Starring David Harbour as a not-so-saintly Saint Nick, the Universal release got off to a good start. Violent Night, which earned a B+ CinemaScore from audiences, cost about USD20 million to make.

Though Avatar: The Way of Water and other holiday releases like Puss in Boots 2, Babylon and I Wanna Dance With Somebody loom in the coming weeks, theatres continue to see fewer films in wide release than they did pre-pandemic. David A Gross, who publishes the box-office subscription newsletter FranchiseRe, said that while there were 58 franchise films released in 2019, there have been only 32 in 2022.

There’s also been a dearth of family releases in theatres. After a muted debut last weekend, Disney’s big-budget animated fantasy adventure Strange World dipped to third place with a mere USD4.9 million in its second week. Some of the season’s notable kid-friendly movies are streaming, instead.

The Roald Dahl adaptation Matilda the Musical, starring Emma Thompson, was made jointly by Netflix, Sony Pictures and Working Title Films. Netflix has worldwide distribution rights to the film except for the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland, where Sony put the film into theatres last weekend. For two weeks, Matilda has been the top film at the UK box office, grossing USD9.7 million over that stretch.

Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’. PHOTO: AP