December has frequently seen the release of massive blockbuster movies, from the Star Wars sequel trilogy to Avatar to Aquaman. This year we didn’t really see any single movie completely take over the box office in December, but Timothée Chalamet's Wonka started off strong, and more importantly it has had solid legs underneath it, keeping near the top of the box office since its release. That has now resulted in Wonka becoming the most successful movie based on the Roald Dahl character, as the new movie has passed Johnny Depp’s version at the global box office.
Wonka has broken the half-billion dollar mark at the global box office. Bringing in $509,688,870 worldwide. That’s compared to $474,968,763 for 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the chocolate maker. For the record, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 movie starring Gene Wilder, only made about $4 million worldwide. While the original adaptation is perhaps still the most popular among fans today, it was a flop upon its initial release and became a classic later on VHS and cable TV.
There are a couple of important caveats to include here. The first is that while Wonka owns the global box office crown in this battle of the chocolatiers, it was able to pull ahead due to overseas success. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is still the bigger movie when it comes to the North American box office, with the Burton/Depp movie having grossed over $200 million, and Chalamet’s effort is sitting at just under $180 million. It should also be pointed out these are non-adjusted-for-inflation numbers. If you do that math, then the Burton movie is still in the lead.
Even with those details included, it has to be said that Wonka has done quite well at the box office. Wonka won the box office its opening weekend and then did so again over the New Year’s Weekend. It has remained in in the top three of the domestic box office since its release, and with January being a historically slow month at the box office, and this January feeling more empty than usual, it’s possible Wonka’s run will continue.
Wonka’s success is notable simply because it wasn’t built or promoted as a massive studio tentpole project. In a year when most major superhero movies failed to impress at the box office, Wonka has shown that success in theaters is still very possible without having a record-breaking opening weekend.
The question now is how will Wonka stand the test of time. Many already see Wonka as their favorite version of the character. If that continues, Chalamet could someday overtake Gene Wilder as the definitive Wonka. He's already well on his way to becoming the definitive Paul Atreides and will have another chance when Dune: Part Two arrives in the 2024 movie schedule.