'M3GAN' makes a box office killing; 'Avatar 2' becomes biggest global release of 2022

Universal Pictures' 'M3GAN' has evolved from a social-media sensation into a box-office sensation, debuting with a surprisingly strong $30.2 million domestically, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

The viral horror hit slayed early box-office expectations, which projected a $17-million to $20-million opening.

"M3GAN" finished second in the weekend box office behind only Disney and 20th Century Studios' "Avatar: The Way of Water," which continued to dominate, grossing $45 million in its fourth weekend for a North American cumulative of $516.8 million. The motion-capture epic this week became the highest-grossing global release of 2022, officially surpassing Paramount Pictures' "Top Gun: Maverick."

As of Sunday morning, "Avatar: The Way of Water" had amassed an estimated $1.7 billion worldwide, according to the studio. The James Cameron film stands as the seventh highest grossing global release of all time.

Directed by Gerard Johnstone, "M3GAN" centers on a lifelike, robotic doll that transforms from a little girl's best friend into a family's worst nightmare. The science-fiction thriller stars Allison Williams, Jenna Davis, Violet McGraw and Amie Donald.

Months after the first trailer for "M3GAN" lighted up the internet with a flurry of silly memes and reaction GIFs, the spooky slasher has garnered some serious critical acclaim — scaring up an excellent 94% "fresh" rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. The flick received a less impressive B grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

"'M3GAN' plays on the ideas that are brought up time and time again in techno horror. ... But 'M3GAN' also introduces a new element to the mix: parenting horror," writes film critic Katie Walsh for the Los Angeles Times.

"The jump scares in the fun, funny thrill ride that is 'M3GAN' elicit more giggles than groans, but there are also intriguing connections being made on 'M3GAN’s' motherboard, behind the glossy surface. If HAL-9000 could see M3GAN — and her dance moves — now, he’d indeed be proud."

Rounding out the top three at the domestic weekend box office were Universal Pictures' "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish," which added $13.1 million in its third weekend for a North American cumulative of $87.7 million; Sony Pictures' "A Man Called Otto," which scored $4.2 million in its second weekend for a North American cumulative of $4.29 million; and Disney's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," which made $3.4 million in its ninth weekend for a North American cumulative of $445.4 million.

"A Man Called Otto" expands further into wide release next week. Opening in wide release next week are "The Devil Conspiracy" and "Plane."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.