Box Office: David Harbour’s ‘Violent Night’ Aims for $10 Million Debut, but No Match for ‘Wakanda Forever’

A killer Santa will be no match for Wakandan warriors at the weekend box office.

Without any real competition in its path, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” looks to land in first place for the fourth weekend in a row. It’ll handily take down this weekend’s only new nationwide release, “Violent Night,” a holiday action comedy starring David Harbour as a murderous Saint Nick.

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Universal’s R-rated “Violent Night” is projected to earn $10 million from 3,500 North American theaters over the weekend. The film cost $20 million to produce.

It’s been a good time at the box office for disturbingly gory movies, with “Smile,” “Terrifier 2” and “Barbarian” each beating expectations. Still, it’s unlikely that “Violent Night” will manage to dethrone “Wakanda Forever,” which is projected to add $22 million to $25 million between Friday and Sunday. So far, Disney and Marvel’s latest comic book epic has generated a mighty $369 million at the domestic box office and $678 million globally.

Critics were mixed on “Violent Night,” which holds a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman praised the film for taking “the oversize appetite of the audience very seriously,” which is to say “it throws every genre it can into the compactor, but that may prove to be a winning holiday buffet.”

Directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola, “Violent Night” has been promoted as a mashup of “Die Hard” and “Home Alone.” The story follows an elite group of mercenaries who break into a family compound on Christmas Eve and hold everyone hostage. But the baddies aren’t prepared for a surprise combatant — Santa Claus, hold the saint.

Also this weekend, “Top Gun: Maverick” is flying back into theaters before it lands on Paramount+ later in December. Paramount is re-releasing the blockbuster sequel on the big screen, including select premium large formats and Imax, from Dec. 2 through Dec. 15.

The move may seem unusual, since “Maverick” already ranks as the fifth highest-grossing domestic release in history with $716 million, as well as the highest-grossing movie of the year with $1.48 billion globally. Who hasn’t seen it yet? But Thanksgiving was uneventful as Disney’s “Strange World” and other new offerings like “Devotion” and “The Fabelmans” failed to drive business. That means other than “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” there’s nothing that will come close to blockbuster status until James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” opens on Dec. 16. Until then, theater owners better hope that audiences have a burning need to watch “Top Gun: Maverick” in theaters for the fifth time.

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