Movies

‘Wonka’ Reawakens The Movie Musical To Land At No. 6 In Deadline’s 2023 Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament

Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament is back. While studios during Covid wildly embraced the theatrical day-and-date model when cinemas were closed, they soon realized there’s nothing more profitable than a theatrical release and the downstreams that come with it. If anything, theatrical is the advertisement for a movie’s longevity in subsequent home entertainment windows. Entering the conversation in 2023 were the streamers, such as Apple, who have also realized the necessity of theatrical to eventize their movies. The financial data pulled together here for Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament is culled by seasoned and trusted sources.

THE FILM

Wonka
Warner Bros

As moviegoers returned post-Covid, movie musicals were thought dead after the dismal performances of feature takes of Broadway musicals West Side Story, Dear Evan Hansen and In the Heights. Then along comes Wonka, an original feature musical with songs from Divine Comedy lead singer Neil Hannon, and this latest take on the Roald Dahl classic onscreen winds up grossing $632.3 million at the global box office, outstripping the final results of 2005’s Tim Burton-directed, Johnny Depp-starring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($474.9M) and driving the entire Warner Bros franchise to $1.1 billion. Former Warner Bros President of Production and Development Courtenay Valenti had been working for a long time to reacquire rights to the Dahl character from the author’s estate (this despite Netflix’s side deal with it), accomplishing the feat in October 2016. The gist was to make a musical that harkened to the original 1971 Gene Wilder movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but the studio also wanted to go back into Wonka’s origins and how he became the confectionary titan. Paddington franchise filmmaker Paul King was tapped to direct, with booming Dune superstar Timothée Chalamet casted in the title role by the filmmaker after seeing the actor’s high school performances on YouTube.

THE BOX SCORE

THE BOTTOM LINE

What’s the trick to succeeding with a musical on the big screen? You have to hide it from the audience in the marketing and trick them, in this case to a tune of $140M in P&A. Once audiences are inside the theater they’ll either love or hate it, and several did love this as through the year-end holiday: Wonka, which hit U.S. theaters December 15, was No. 1 for three of its first four weekends at the B.O. (Note: The only time it was No. 2 was when Warner Bros opened DC’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom over Christmas; Wonka decimated that sequel both in stateside [$218.4M vs. $124.4M] and worldwide [$632.3M vs. $434.4M] coin.) The current Warner Bros feature administration of Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy were so excited about Wonka, they began screening it to the media before Thanksgiving to generate word of mouth; exhibitors got a taste of the musical at CinemaCon in April. Also working in Wonka‘s favor was the actors strike ending November 8, enabling the movie to truly fire up a PR tour with a world premiere in London, another in Los Angeles, as well as Chalamet singing the film’s song “Pure Imagination” during his Saturday Night Live hosting gig November 11. The $150M streaming revenues includes the money Warner Bros paid itself to put the film on its Max streaming service. Wonka was such a success, coupled with Chalamet’s Dune: Part Two (combined global B.O. for both titles at $1.3M), that the Burbank, CA lot hammered out a first-look feature film deal with the Oscar-nominated actor. End result here is $182M net profit, proving musicals are still very much alive.

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