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Christmas box office: Wonder Woman 1984 breaks COVID-era record with $16.7 million debut in North America

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Dec 28, 2020, 2:29 PM EST (Updated)

Wonder Woman 1984 brought some hope to the 2020 box office (and beyond) with $16.7 million in North American ticket sales — the largest weekend opening for any film released in the age of COVID-19, Variety confirmed Sunday afternoon. It's even more impressive when you consider the fact that the sequel was released in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time on Christmas Day. Internationally, the film has lassoed up an impressive $68 million for a global haul of $85 million. Warner Bros. is so pleased with the film's debut, that it's already provided the green-light to a third Wonder Woman film, with Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot locked in to return as director and star respectively.

Most of the domestic figure came from over 10,000 private watch parties, in which customers can rent out an entire theaters for themselves and up to 10 friends. “[Private watch parties] are really sensational,” Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution, said in a statement to Variety. “It’s a real testament to exhibitors’ ingenuity and showmanship.”

Wonder Woman 1984 broke records and exceeded our expectations across all of our key viewing and subscriber metrics in its first 24 hours on the service, and the interest and momentum we’re seeing indicates this will likely continue well beyond the weekend,” added Andy Forssell, Executive Vice President and General Manager, WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer. “During these very difficult times, it was nice to give families the option of enjoying this uplifting film at home, where theater viewing wasn’t an option."

Right now, only 39% of theaters of U.S. theaters (representing 56% of the country's box office) are currently in operation with limited capacity seating. Locations remain closed in key cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Per WB, almost half of HBO Max's total subscribers streamed the sequel over the weekend.

Wonder Woman 1984's bow was the proverbial litmus test for WB's unprecedented dual rollout strategy; a strategy that the studio plans to apply to its entire 2021 movie slate of nearly 20 films. Directors like Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve have spoken out against the model, and there are rumors that certain projects (like Villeneuve's big budget adaptation of Dune) may end up as a traditional release after all. However, with WW84 proving to be a box office success (at least by pandemic standards), Warner Bros. may end up sticking to its guns, while production companies — like Legendary — are convinced that such a system can be profitable. Speaking with Variety, media analyst Rich Greenfield described this weekend as a “watershed moment for the movie industry.”

Directed and co-written by Jenkins, WW84 picks up more than 60 years after the events of the first Wonder Woman. Now working at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Diana Prince (Gadot) comes across a mystical artifact that threatens to destroy the entire world. Teaming up with her old flame, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the Themysciran hero takes on a greedy businessman, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), and an envious co-worker, Barbara Minerva/Cheetah (Kristen Wiig).

"As fans around the world continue to embrace Diana Prince, driving the strong opening weekend performance of Wonder Woman 1984, we are excited to be able to continue her story with our real life Wonder Women — Gal and Patty — who will return to conclude the long-planned theatrical trilogy,” said Warner Bros. chief Toby Emmerich.

In terms of reviews, the follow-up was not as well-received as its predecessor, hitting a score of 65% on Rotten Tomatoes (almost 30 points lower than the original). Concurrent with WB's dual rollout plan, Wonder Woman 1984 will leave HBO Max after 31 days and continue its theatrical run until a home video release.

Pixar's latest effort, Soul, decided to give up its theatrical release in North America for an exclusive premiere on Disney+, which also took place on Christmas Day. While the animated feature didn't play in domestic theaters, it did bring in $7.6 million from 10 international markets, with $5.5 million of that total hailing from China. With a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, Soul is among Pixar's highest-rated offerings, sharing the same score as The IncrediblesCoco and last summer's Toy Story 4.

Helmed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., UpInside Out) and Kemp Powers (writer of Regina King's One Night in Miami) offers up another metaphysical look at two of the greatest questions in the universe: where do we come from before we're born and where do we go after we die? After falling into an open manhole, middle school band teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) finds himself in the "Great Before," a place where souls are imbued with personality traits before being sent to Earth. Desperate to return to his body in order to play a career-changing gig, Joe becomes a mentor to 22 (Tin Fey), a jaded soul that doesn't see much point in living.

Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett also lend their voices to the project.

Now in its fifth weekend, DreamWorks' The Croods: A New Age took third place with $1.7 million added to its domestic cache for a North American tally of $30 million. The animated sequel, which held the largest COVID-19 opening until WW84 came along, has made $98 million globally.

Sony's Monster Hunter chewed on fourth place with $1.12 million, boosting its at-home total to $4.2 million. The Paul W.S. Anderson adaptation of the Capcom video game franchise of the same name continues to disappoint after its $2.2 million debut last weekend. Internationally, it's made almost $5 million for a worldwide figure of $9 million.