‘Encanto,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ Lead Subdued Thanksgiving Weekend Box Office

Walt Disney Studios’ animated family film Encanto generated a projected $40.3 million in North American ticket sales to become the top theatrical earner during the extended Thanksgiving weekend, which began Nov. 24.

The No. 2 spot went to the second weekend of Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which had $35 million.

MGM-United Artists Releasing’s drama House of Gucci, co-starring Lady Gaga, sold $21.8 million in tickets, a strong debut for a movie for older audiences in a family themed weekend. Sony’s latest franchise release, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, saw $8.8 million across the five-day period.

Disney/Marvel Studios’ Eternals rounded out the top five weekend theatrical earners with $11 million in revenue to bring its North American total to $150 million and $368 million globally.

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Overall, the domestic box office generated a total of $141 million in estimated ticket sales, down 45% from the $256 million generated over the pre-pandemic 2019 Thanksgiving weekend, but well ahead of last year’s disastrous $20.2 million, when most screens remained dark or operated at reduced capacity. The numbers suggest moviegoers are returning to the theaters — albeit cautiously.

It should also be noted that more than half the 2019 Thanksgiving weekend box office gross came from a single film, Disney’s Frozen 2.

‘The Croods 2’ Leads Slow Thanksgiving Weekend Box Office

Despite opening in more than 2,200 screens, Universal Pictures’ The Croods: A New Age led another lackluster weekend box office undermined by the ongoing pandemic. Making matters worse was the fact the weekend in question was Thanksgiving, which saw projected theatrical revenue of less than $17 million over the five-day period (Nov. 25-29). That pales in comparison to the $262.2 million generated between Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 2019, when Disney’s Frozen II and no pandemic fears lured moviegoers.

The Croods: A New Age performed as expected, generating $14.3 million in ticket sales. The sequel to 2013’s The Croods joined Universal’s horror comedy Freaky ($1 million) to lead the weekend.

Universal unit Focus Features’ family drama Let Him Go, with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, generated $660,000 to top $6.7 million since its Nov. 7 release, and finishe fourth. All three movies are headed to premium VOD release in accordance with shortened theatrical window agreements between Universal, AMC Theatres and Cinemark Cinemas. The chains will split PVOD revenue with Universal.

101 Studios’ The War With Grandpa generated $900,000 to finish the weekend in third place, as the Robert De Niro family comedy topped $17.2 million since its Oct. 9 release.

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, says consumers won’t return to theaters in pre-virus numbers until there’s a vaccine on the market some time next year.

“People aren’t dying to go to the movies,” he said.

Thanksgiving Weekend Box Office Eyes Pandemic Plummet

With just one major new release, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age, hitting theaters over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, observers contend the traditional box office bonanza is set to disappoint this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, movies such as Disney’s Frozen II and Lionsgate’s Knives Out helped the Thanksgiving box office generate a healthy $263 million in ticket sales, still down almost 17% from 2018’s record North American haul of $315 million. This year, The Croods: A New Age is projected to generate no more than $15 million. The film tallied $1.8 million on opening day Nov. 25, according to Box Office Mojo.

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“The pandemic has negatively impacted every traditionally important box office holiday from Memorial weekend to Fourth of July, and even sidelined the almighty summer movie season, so it’s no surprise that Thanksgiving would be impacted as well,” Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian said in a statement. “Usually, it’s a time frame when family and friends get together and historically it’s been a big weekend. This year it’s literally going to be a turkey.”

Indeed, the Thanksgiving weekend has typically generated around $250 million in annual revenue over the past decade, with just 2011 and 2014 falling slightly below the average. In 2020, the last major box office period, Labor Day weekend, saw revenue plummet 76.5% to $28.4 million despite the opening of Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller Tenet.

With multiple virus vaccines reportedly readying for distribution, the Hollywood box office, and large group gatherings, could return to some sense of normalcy in 2021. A new reality that includes premium VOD. Universal is set to release The Croods: A New Age into homes as early as Dec. 11 should it fail to generate $50 million at the box office as part of a shortened theatrical window agreement the studio has with exhibitors AMC Theatres and Cinemark.

“I do think in the future, Thanksgiving will indeed return to prominence as one of the most important holidays, both symbolically and financially for movie theaters,” Dergarabedian said.