Weekend Box Office (November 25 - 27, 2016)
THIS WEEKEND For the first time in eight years, a new release ruled the Thanksgiving holiday frame as Disney's animated comedy Moana pulled in moviegoers from coast to coast debuting to an estimated $55.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a sensational $81.1M across the five-day span starting on Wednesday. It was the second largest Thanksgiving weekend opening of all-time behind only the studio's own Frozen which did $93.6M over five days in 2013.
Packed with humor, adventure, songs, and the voice of Dwayne Johnson, Moana scored rave reviews from critics across the board making it appealing to parents and kids. The Disney marketing machine was working overtime and brand partners helped boost the hype too. Moviegoers loved what they got and spread positive buzz since the mid-week launch. The CinemaScore grade was a nice A for the PG-rated pic.
Studio data showed that the crowd was 55% female and 57% under 25. With no major toon competition until Christmas weekend, Moana certainly has the potential to reach beyond the $200M domestic mark and maybe much more if it can hold on through the end-of-year holidays. Since 2009, the Thanksgiving frame was ruled each year by films from the Twilight, Hunger Games, or Harry Potter franchises which all opened on the weekend before the holiday. The demigod flick has broken that streak.
Most overseas territories will launch next weekend, in late December, or in January but China did open this weekend with $12.3M in three days. That's half of Zootopia's opening there from earlier this year, however the country did force Moana to open head-to-head against Fantastic Beasts this weekend splitting up ticket buyers.
Slipping one spot to second place was that very wizarding adventure Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which grossed an estimated $45.1M in its second weekend of play. The Warner Bros. tentpole dropped 39% which was an impressive hold. Literary-based epics ruling Thanksgiving in their sophomore sessions over the past seven years all saw drops in the 50% to 70% range. Those were all sequels and more front-loaded, but Beasts is a major franchise film with a built-in fan base so its hold was something Warner Bros. can be happy with. The Newt Scamander film boosted its domestic cume to $156.2M after ten full days and looks to finish in the $240M neighborhood. The next two weeks will see relatively low competition before Rogue One arrives to decimate all competition.
Fantastic Beasts packed a punch overseas pulling in a hefty $132M this weekend led by China's opening of $41.1M over three days and Japan's $15.5M over five days. All major global markets are now playing the film and the worldwide tally has climbed to $473.7M on its way to $800M or more. A pretty standard 67% has come from international markets. Four more installments for this franchise are in the works with the next launching in November 2018.
Marvel took third place with its super hero smash Doctor Strange which grossed an estimated $13.4M, down 25%, smashing the double century mark in the process with a new domestic cume of $205.1M. It is the tenth film from the 14-pic Marvel Cinematic Universe to break $200M and will surpass Thor: The Dark World later this week on its way to a final of about $230M. Strange saw its overseas gross climb to $410.9M as the global tally hit $616M on its way to the $700M area.
Brad Pitt landed in fourth place with his new wartime drama Allied which bowed to an estimated $13M over three days and $18M over the long five-day holiday span. The R-rated film averaged a mild $4,114 from 3,160 locations over the Friday-to-Sunday session and did not reach the levels of many of Pitt's other starring vehicles. Reviews were mixed and much of the talk surrounding the movie was about how it may have led to the destruction of the mighty Brangelina empire. Studio data showed an even split with males edging out females at 51%. 85% were over age 25 and audiences were only mildly happy as evidenced by the B CinemaScore grade. The $85M-budgeted film will need to pull in big overseas numbers to break even.
Enjoying the smallest dip in the top ten was Paramount stablemate Arrival which took in an estimated $11.3M in its third round easing a scant 7%. The sci-fi drama has banked $62.4M to date and may hit $80M. The toon Trolls saw some of its audience taken away to the South Pacific this weekend so it witnessed a 41% slide to an estimated $10.3M. The Fox release has grossed $135.1M so far and is one week away from surpassing the $143.5M of the last DreamWorks Animation film Kung Fu Panda 3 from January. Worldwide sits at $291M.
The raunchy comedy sequel Bad Santa 2 found no takers as it hit multiplexes 13 years after its predecessor. Broad Green grossed an estimated $6.1M from 2,920 theaters for a weak $2,091 average and only $9M across the five-day holiday period. Reviews were bad and interest from fans was not high to begin with for the R-rated laugher.
Universal's comedy Almost Christmas dropped only 22% to an estimated $5.7M for a new cume of $34.8M. The Mel Gibson-directed soldier story Hacksaw Ridge slipped only 18% to an estimated $5.5M giving Lionsgate $52.2M to date. Rounding out the top ten was the teen comedy The Edge of Seventeen which fell 38% to an estimated $3M for only a $10.3M sum for STX.
Audiences had no interest in Warren Beatty's passion project Rules Don't Apply which was given a wide release in 2,382 locations but came up with a measly $1.6M over three days, according to estimates, for a disastrous $661 average. It was the worst opening weekend average this year for any film debuting in 2,000+ theaters, and surely one of the lowest of all-time too.
More awards contenders platformed in New York and Los Angeles. The Weinstein Co. opened Lion starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman to an estimated $128,000 from four houses for a $32,000 average while EuropaCorp saw a $21,000 average for its Jessica Chastain pic Miss Sloane which collected an estimated $63,000 from three sites. Both opened on Friday and will expand in December. Reviews were mostly good for each.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $168.8M which was up 1% from last year's holiday when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 stayed at number one with $52M; and up 11% from 2014 when Mockingjay Part 1 remained in the top spot with $57M.
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Compared to three-day projections, Moana was right on target with my $55M forecast while Allied came in a little below my $15M prediction. Both Bad Santa 2 and Rules Don't Apply opened below my respective projections of $11M and $6M.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Incarnate opens.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: November 27, 2016 at 2:55PM ET
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