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Aquaman v Bumblebee v Mary Poppins: Predicting the Christmas Box Office Winner

As 2018 draws to an end, which film will win at the box office this Christmas: Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman, or Bumblebee? This holiday season, the box office faces the kind of three-way fight for domination that one would usually expect from the summer. With no Star Wars film this December, and nothing from Marvel to suck up all the oxygen in the room, there’s real potential for a cinematic surprise this season. Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and Walt Disney Studios are facing off to see who can be crowned the winner of the box office this Christmas, and each of them has a viable candidate that can pull it off.

Warner Bros. has had a lot of trouble with the DCEU and many had predicted that Aquaman would be a box office disappointment due to a perceived lack of interest in the character. Yet its critic reviews and general word of mouth from audiences have been quite strong, and so far, Aquaman is soaring internationally, especially in China where it’s grossing hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Disney has Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the 1964 Mary Poppins film that remains one of their most beloved properties. With Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel-Miranda taking over for Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, the new film follows the intrepid nanny’s return to London to look after the offspring of the original Banks children. Mary Poppins was the only film during Walt Disney’s lifetime that landed him a Best Picture Oscar nomination, something they’re hoping to recreate this season, and hunger for a big Christmas musical did wonders for The Greatest Showman last year.

Related: Why Mortal Engines Bombed At The Box Office

Then there’s Bumblebee, Paramount’s first attempt at spinning off from their Transformers franchise. This time, there’s no Michael Bay and the story takes place in the 1980s, with Hailee Steinfeld in the leading role. A first for the franchise, Bumblebee is garnering stellar reviews, with high praise for its vibrant approach to the material and decidedly anti-Bay aesthetic. But competition is tough this Christmas for box office supremacy. It’s no surprise that 20th Century Fox and Robert Rodriguez decided to sit this one out and moved the release date for Alita: Battle Angel to February 2019. Predicting the box office is easier said than done, especially in a year where there were so many surprises. However, there are still some outcomes that feel more likely than others, and with that in mind, here are our predictions for which films will dominate the box office during the holiday season, both domestically and internationally.

Aquaman is Already Massively Ahead Worldwide

Jason Momoa as Aquaman

It feels somewhat unfair to judge these three films on a level playing field given that one of them has already opened internationally and is making a lot of money. Aquaman has already made back its estimated $160 – 200 million budget thanks to a record breaking opening in China. Alongside its domestic release, Aquaman has yet to open in big markets such as France, Japan and Germany, all of which will happen in the coming weeks. Aquaman looks set to do well domestically as it opens in over 4100 theaters (around 300 more than Mary Poppins Returns, and 600 or so more than Bumblebee, which gives it an obvious advantage).

Related: What Aquaman's Success (Or Failure) Means For The DCEU

It also seems a safe bet that Aquaman will be the top Christmas release at the domestic box office. The first week means everything to a film on this scale, and it's arriving in North America with the benefit of international hype and strong reviews, which overrule early skepticism. It's an event movie and one that plays best with big crowds, which audiences will want to take advantage of.

Mary Poppins Returns Will Win Overall Domestically At The Box Office

Disney is exceedingly good at making money, but the lion’s share of their record breaking grosses have come from acquired studios, such as Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios. That’s not to say that they haven’t pulled in big numbers with their own movies, but over the past couple of years, that has mainly taken the form of live-action remakes of established classics. Mary Poppins Returns isn’t technically a remake – it's a direct sequel to the 1964 film – but it functions in many of the same ways as 2017’s Beauty and the Beast; it's a highly familiar reinvention of an iconic property that appeals to audiences’ nostalgia and strengthens the brand. That may be a cynical stance, but it’s working for Disney.

Going up against Aquaman could be tough for the first week, but in the long-term, Mary Poppins Returns seems like the strongest bet for a win at the domestic box office. As proven by the success of last year’s The Greatest Showman and this year’s A Star is Born, there's certainly an audience for classic musical stories. Mary Poppins Returns also feels more fitting for a family experience, which is where the major Christmas box office money lies. Aquaman will probably take the top spot in week one, but once those numbers drop off as they typically do for blockbusters, Mary Poppins Returns will benefit the most. Mary Poppins Returns can play the long game at the domestic box office in a way most traditional blockbusters can’t, and that may keep it ahead of Aquaman in the long-term. Consider how Venom made $212.8 million domestic compared to A Star is Born's $199.1 million domestic, despite being released on the same day.

Page 2 of 2: How Bumblebee Will Fare & Aquaman Will Win In The End

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Key Release Dates
  • Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
  • Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
  • Mary Poppins Returns (2018) release date: Dec 19, 2018
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