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‘Avatar’ stays atop N.America box office on storm-dampened weekend

Pulling in an estimated $90 million, “Avatar: The Way of Water” has blown away the competition even as a massive storm kept millions at home over the four-day Christmas weekend, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations said Monday.

The James Cameron sci-fi sequel has now earned 20th Century $287.7 million domestically, becoming the fifth highest-grossing film of 2022. 

But while analysts said it had exceeded expectations on a storm-depressed weekend, three new releases produced far more modest returns.

Universal’s family-oriented “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” a computer-animated spin-off of the “Shrek” franchise, took in $17.5 million for the Friday-through-Monday period.

Sony’s biopic “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody” earned just $6.8 million. English actress Naomi Ackie portrays the late superstar.

And comedy-drama “Babylon,” helmed by Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle, opened with a mere $5.3 million despite a cast including Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. called that an “especially terrible start.”

But David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research suggested that the over-the-top epic can expect a boost “if it picks up big awards nominations,” as many expect.

Fifth place for the long, cold weekend went to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” at $5.3 million. Its domestic total is now $428 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

“Violent Night” ($4.3 million)

“The Whale” ($1.5 million)

“The Fabelmans” ($900,000)

“Strange World” ($675,000)

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