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Is 2024 Really the Box Office Year From Hell?

Timothée Chalamet, Denis Villeneuve and Zendaya promote the upcoming ‘Dune: Part Two’ during the Warner Bros. Pictures presentation at CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, on April 25, 2023, in Las Vegas.
'Dune: Part Two,' the year’s first tentpole when it opens March 1, may or may not see much upswing from its predecessor’s $400 million global haul. Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images
Scott Mendelson
January 1, 2024

Amid all the familiar and well-rehearsed doom and gloom narratives, some ostensibly good news: This past weekend’s domestic box office totaled $111 million, up 8 percent from the final weekend of 2022 and some 12 percent from the final Friday-to-Sunday frame of 2021. And this despite the fact that this year’s big December tentpole, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom ($77 million by year’s end), earned far less than Spider-Man: No Way Home ($575 million by the end of 2021) and Avatar: The Way of Water ($401 million by the end of 2022). 

Of course, deeper scrutiny reveals a slightly different reality. The 2023 final weekend numbers benefitted from a last-minute blitzkrieg: Nearly every distributor, and streaming-focused tech company, flooded theaters to mollify what could have been a disastrous year-end season. It’s yet another strange wrinkle in a once unimaginable year, and perhaps a prelude of what to expect in future Christmas seasons.