The Christmas season has officially kicked off at the box office as Wonka sets out to warm moviegoers’ hearts with a whimsical origin tale about the iconic candyman from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

From Warner Bros. and Harry Potter franchise producer David Heyman, the musical started off its North American run late Thursday with a promising $3.5 million in preview grosses from 3,400 theaters (family films aren’t necessarily known for sporting huge preview grosses). Wonka matched the preview gross of box office sensation Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which likewise grossed $3.5 million in previews and opened to $35 million domestically.

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Tracking suggests Wonka will likewise debut in the $35 million to $40 million range. By Friday, it will be playing in 4,203 locations, including Imax and all other premium large formats.

Directed by Paul King of Paddington fame and starring Timothée Chalamet as a young Willy Wonka, the movie’s star-studded ensemble cast also includes Hugh Grant, Olivia Colman, Keegan-Michael Key, Calah Lane, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Natasha Rothwell, Rich Fulcher, Rakhee Thakrar, Tom Davis and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Wonka hopes to sing loudly throughout the holidays. This weekend and next, it will have to compete with Christmas gift buying and other holiday preparations in terms of capturing the attention of consumers, but then things will ease up once presents are unwrapped. Wonka will also benefit from strong weekday numbers as kids start getting out of school.

Any Hollywood studio with a film at Christmas counts on a marathon, not a sprint, unless you are the likes of Avatar or Star Wars.

On the marquee itself, a competition will come from two fellow Warner Bros. titles, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (Dec. 22) and The Color Purple (Dec. 25), which is also a musical. On the family front, Universal and Illumination open Migration on Dec. 22.

The musical genre has sordid history of late, and Wonka hopes to reverse this curse and match the success of films including the Hugh Jackman-led The Greatest Showman on Earth, which debuted to modest numbers on Christmas but then took hold and amassed a fortune.

Wonka is one of the first Hollywood pics to unspool since the SAG-AFTRA strike ended. Warners and the filmmakers breathed a huge sigh of relief at being able to dispatch Chalamet — who is fast becoming a bona fide movie star — to promote and publicize the PG-rated film. Young girls in particularly are particularly taken with the young actor, who next stars in Dune: Part Two, which Warners and Legendary delayed until next March so that Chalamet and co-star Zendaya would be able to do press.

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