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'The Color Purple' is the biggest Christmas Day opening since 2009

Sofia (Danielle Brooks) and Celie (Fantasia Barrino) in the 2023 film reincarnation of <em>The Color Purple.</em>
Eli Adé
Warner Bros. Pictures
Sofia (Danielle Brooks) and Celie (Fantasia Barrino) in the 2023 film reincarnation of The Color Purple.

The Color Purple is seeing a lot of green at the box office.

The film adaptation of the New York Times bestseller, turned hit movie, turned Broadway musical smash outperformed industry expectations to lead the box office on its opening day by a wide margin.

With $18 million in the till in North America on day one, it's the biggest Christmas Day opening in 14 years (after 2009's Sherlock Holmes) and the second-biggest Dec. 25 opening ever.

That means it also topped the opening of 2012's Les Misérables, which earned $148 million in North America and more than $442 million worldwide.

Warner Bros. has the top three movies in theaters this holiday season — not just The Color Purple, but also the family film Wonka, and the underperforming superhero sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.

The studio's initial trailers barely hinted that Wonka and The Color Purple had songs because even the most lavishly produced film musicals have recently failed at the box office. The producers needn't have worried.

The Color Purple, in its opening day, exceeded the entire opening weekends of every stage-to-screen musical adaptation that's premiered in the last few years, including In the Heights ($11 million), West Side Story ($10.5 million), Dear Evan Hansen ($7.5 million), and Cats ($6.6 million).

With that track record, industry wisdom had it that stage-to-screen adaptations, indeed screen musicals in general, had fallen out of favor. That's pretty evidently not true. Now, the producers probably wish Aquaman could sing.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.