2023 Box Office Updates

Adapted from Words Like That S1 Ep. 5: “Christmas Movie Special + End of Year Story Updates," originally released December 19, 2023.

I reviewed a few big summer movies earlier this year on the Words Like That podcast, and now it's time for a box office postmortem, i.e., how well did audiences respond with their wallets? 

First up:

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Pt. 1 

Dead Reckoning is the 7th--yes, SEVENTH--film in the Mission Impossible franchise, and as I said on the podcast, I absolutely loved it. 

Unfortunately, it was a bit of a flop domestically with $172 million, which puts it at #13 for the year on the domestic gross chart. It faired better internationally with a $567 million worldwide total, which lands it at #8 on the global charts. With an estimated budget of around 300 million, that's a cumulative mediocre showing at best.

I’m uncertain why the film performed so poorly. I thought it was well crafted, and it received high ratings among both critics and audiences. Consequently, I was expecting positive word of mouth to propel it forward at the box office beyond its opening weekend. 

It’s also a Tom Cruise-led franchise actioner. Tom’s last movie in the same vein, Top Gun: Maverick, single handedly saved the 2022 box office, and I was expecting similar numbers for Dead Reckoning, coming off the good will engendered by Maverick, if nothing else. But MI7 must have been too far removed from Maverick for the latter to have been a viable factor. Maybe if Dead Reckoning had been ready to go last Thanksgiving or Christmas, when everybody was still hyped from Top Gun, it would’ve faired much better domestically. 

The film was also followed by Barbenheimer (Barbie + Oppenheimer, get it?) less than two weeks later, which was inarguably the movie event of the year. So, any legs Dead Reckoning may have had would’ve been cut off at the knees by those two juggernauts. 

Such a poor showing also seems to be a chronic symptom of the post-pandemic era box office. A plethora of high-quality options float around on streaming these days, and viewers have become accustomed to watching from home. Plus, theater-to-streaming release windows are so short now that a film must strike the target audience as a “must-see-immediately” release to post the kinds of numbers we saw regularly over the last 20 years. And, for whatever reason, Dead Reckoning simply missed that mark. 


I've already mentioned Oppenheimer, which I did not like. (And the YouTube clip in which I said so got a few keyboard warriors--or I guess mouse/finger tap warriors--smashing that dislike button instead of actually doing something productive with their time, but I digress….) Regardless of my feelings, however, the film did incredible business, hitting #5 at the domestic box office and #3 globally. 

I must admit, though, I don’t get it. I understand a good box office showing the first week because many viewers like me, who love movies, Christopher Nolan, biopics, epic historical dramas, and Cilian Murphy, and didn’t care anything about Barbie, are going to turn out for a film like this on opening weekend. But I thought that most of those people would hate this film as much as I did, garnering the flick poor word-of-mouth after opening weekend, which would cause it to get smashed by Barbie over the ensuing weeks. 

But nope, it was an international hit. 

Congratulations to Christopher Nolan and everybody involved, and may his next movie have similar success while also being more my of cup of tea.

Sound of Freedom

Another smash hit, Sound of Freedom earned $184 million domestic, $248 million global, landing at #10 on the domestic list and #21 worldwide. Domestically, that put’s it ahead of 

Taylor Swift: Eras

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny 

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Pt. 1 

Transformers: Rise of the Beast 

Creed III, Elemental 

Fast X 

Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Scream VI 

The Flash 

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves


The Marvels

Against a $15 million budget, limited release, and 4 years of post-production limbo, that makes Sound of Freedom one of the most profitable independent films of all time.

As I said in my review, it's a good movie but a hard watch. However, since it covers an important subject matter, I’m glad it has enjoyed such success.


A few other big films this year included:

The aforementioned Barbie, which I have not seen but which topped both the domestic and global box offices with $636 million and $1.4 billion, respectively. 

The Super Mario Bros., which I have seen and thought was excellent, and which hit #2 on both charts, with $574 million and $1.4 billion also.

A few superhero films also managed to crack the Top 10 of both charts: 

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse landed at #3 domestically with $381 million and #6 worldwide with $690 million.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 ended at #4 on both charts with $359 million and $845 million. 

And finally, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania landed at numbers 8 and 10, with $214 million and $476 million. 

While the superhero subgenre of speculative fiction had been my favorite for the past two decades, I have seen none of these last three films, and I'm not sure I ever will. 

I plan to expound on that in 2024, so stay tuned and have a Happy New Year!

Cole Powell is an award-winning singer/songwriter and Z-list YouTuber. Armed with degrees in computer technology and liberal arts and sciences, Powell seeks to pontificate his pitiful opinions to the masses through any means the internet allows.

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