While moviegoing over the long 2021 Thanksgiving corridor didn’t come close to reaching pre-pandemic levels, Hollywood feasted on gains for family fare and adult dramas.
Walt Disney Animation’s original musical adventure Encanto topped the domestic chart with a Wednesday-Sunday opening of $40.3 million, the best start of the pandemic era for an animated title. That includes $27 million for the three-day weekend. Overseas, Encanto opened to $29.3 million from more than 47 markets for a global launch of $69.6 million.
Disney always releases an animated film over Thanksgiving, albeit to far bigger numbers. The last original movie to launch over the holiday, Coco, posted a five-day domestic gross of $72.9 million in 2018. Among franchise installments, Frozen II amassed more than $125 million for the five days in 2019.
While Encanto opened in line with expectations, many in Hollywood had hoped it would do more. There’s concern over the pace of the overall box office recovery, particularly in the wake of the new, omicron COVID-19 variant, which could spook domestic audiences after already prompting some cinema closures in parts of Europe.
Encanto, featuring original songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, tells the tale of a Colombian teenager who has to save her extended family’s magic, although she has no special gifts of her own. Byron Howard, Jared Bush and Charise Castro Smith directed, while the voice cast includes Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, Wilmer Valderrama, Adassa, Diane Guerrero, Mauro Castillo, Angie Cepeda, Jessica Darrow, Rhenzy Feliz, Carolina Gaitán, Ravi Cabot-Conyers and John Leguizamo.
Fueled by Latinos and an A CinemaScore in North America, Encanto was the first animated studio title to receive an exclusive theatrical window since the COVID-19 crisis struck in spring 2020 (until recently, kids under the age of 11 couldn’t be vaccinated).
MGM and United Artists’ House of Gucci was another Thanksgiving winner.
Directed by Ridley Scott, Gucci sewed up a five-day debut of $21.8 million and $14.2 million for the weekend, both record numbers for an adult drama in the pandemic era and reflecting star Lady Gaga’s appeal among younger adults. Nearly half of ticket buyers, or 45 percent, were between the ages of 18-34, while 34 percent were 45 and older.
Gucci placed No. 3 behind Encanto and holdover Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Overseas, the drama opened to $12.9 million from 40 markets for a global start of $34.7 million.
“This is definite progress,” says United Artists’ distribution chief Erik Lomis. “Original stories still matter. I think that’s a big deal.”
Lomis was referring to both Gucci and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, which MGM and United Artists opened in exclusive 70mm runs in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The movie posted a per theater average of $84,000, by far the best average since the pandemic began.
A player in the awards race, House of Gucci stars Lady Gaga as the wife of fashion scion Maurizio Gucci, played by Adam Driver. Al Pacino and Jared Leto also star in this tale of murderous revenge. It received a B+ CinemaScore from audiences (one reason could be its 158-minute running time).
One new offering that didn’t fare so well was Sony and Screen Gems’ reboot Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, which posted a five-day domestic debut of $8.8 million to place No. 5. The action-horror pic is directed by Johannes Roberts and stars Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue and Neal McDonough. Overseas, the pic opened to $5.1 million from 15 markets for a global start of $13.9 million.
Sony is faring far better with Jason Reitman’s family friendly Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which finished Sunday with an estimated 10-day domestic total of $87.8 million and $115.8 million worldwide.
Afterlife grossed $35.3 million domestically for the five-day Thanksgiving frame — not far behind Encanto — including $24.5 million for the weekend.
Warner Bros.’ King Richard fell to No. 7 in its second weekend to finish Sunday with a subdued domestic cume of roughly $11 million. The adult drama and Oscar hopeful stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams. King Richard is also available on HBO Max.
King Richard is also having trouble scoring points internationally, where it has earned $5.2 million to date for a worldwide cume of $16.6 million.