DC’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom started off its Christmas box office run with a sluggish $4.5 million in Thursday previews from 3,040 theaters, well behind the $9 million earned in previews by the first film in 2018. The sequel, reteaming director James Wan and star Jason Momoa, caps a year in which the superhero genre has largely struggled.

The Warner Bros. tentpole may only swim to $37 million to $43 million in its domestic debut over the long four-day holiday weekend. That would pale in comparison to the first Aquaman, as well as trail the recent $46.1 million opening of box office debacle The Marvels, from rival Marvel Studios.

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Aquaman 2, which faced a troubled road to the big screen, marks an end of an era as new DC chiefs James Gunn and Peter Safran reboot the DC Universe with 2025’s Superman: Legacy. (Momoa himself has all but said there won’t be an Aquaman threequel.)

In 2018, Aquaman‘s official three-day opening over the Dec. 21-23 weekend was $67.9 million. And through Christmas Day — a Tuesday — its domestic tally was a rousing $105.4 million (that included several million in special sneak peeks the previous weekend). The movie went on to earn $335.1 million domestically and $1.15 billion globally, the best showing ever for a DCEU title, not adjusted for inflation.

If there’s any consolation, it’s that Aquaman 2 is almost assured of winning what is shaping up to be a relatively soft Christmas weekend, both in North America and overseas, where it hopes to be a bigger player.

A slew of other films also open Friday. Warners has no fewer than three year-end holiday event movies — Aquaman, Wonka, which opened last weekend, and The Color Purple — a daring feat (to boot, two are musicals).

In yet another test of the appetite for theatrical animated fare, and especially original stories, Illumination and Universal are contributing Migration to the holiday mix. Tracking suggests the family pic, which grossed $1.5 million in Thursday previews from 3,050 locations, will post a four-day gross of $14 million to $15 million against a reported $70 million production budget.

The final verdict for Migration won’t be rendered until New Year’s weekend once (there’s no more lucrative stretch of the moviegoing year than the week between Christmas and New Year’s). Over Christmas 2016, Illumination’s Sing, also an original story, earned a pleasing $75.5 million in its first six days; that number climbed to $166.5 million through Jan. 1, a Sunday. And last year, DreamWorks Animation and Universal’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish grossed only $18 million after opening Dec. 21, but had a strong multiple and earned $185.3 million domestically and $481 globally (of course, it was based on known IP).

In November, Disney Animation was skewered when Wish, also an original story, opened to $31.6 million over the five-day Thanksgiving corridor, including $19.7 million for the weekend proper. The movie, which cost a reported $200 million, hasn’t shown staying power.

Columbia/Sony’s romantic-comedy Anyone but You unwrapped $1.2 million in Thursday previews from 2,723 theaters. The pic, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, is expected to open to $6 million to $8 million.

A24’s Zac Efron-led wrestling family drama The Iron Claw, another movie on the Christmas marque, earned $650,00 in previews from 2,100 locations. The movie is likewise tracking to open in the $6 million-plus range.

Preview numbers for all new films will be folded into Friday’s official opening day gross.

At the specialty box office, there are number of awards contenders expanding timed to the holiday, including MGM/Amazon’s American Fiction.

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