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Feast, famine for Disney at Thanksgiving weekend

by Democrat -Gazette Press Services | December 2, 2022 at 1:31 a.m.
Meridian Clade (Gabrielle Union) and Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal) admire the landscape in the Disney film "Strange World," which grossed only $18.6 million over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanksgiving often serves up a feast of new family movies at the box office, but the Walt Disney Co.'s animated offering "Strange World" fizzled with audiences out of the gates. The production, which carried a reported $180 million budget, grossed just $18.6 million in ticket sales in its first five days and $11.9 million over the weekend in North American theaters, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The top spot for the holiday corridor, which runs from Wednesday through Sunday, instead went to another Disney movie, Marvel's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," which raked in an additional $64 million over the last five days, $45.9 million of which was from the weekend. The superhero sequel has reigned over the charts for three weekends now and has grossed $676 million worldwide.

It was a muted weekend despite a buffet of well-reviewed options, including the Korean War aviation drama "Devotion," the nationwide expansion of the Timothee Chalamet cannibal romance "Bones and All " and Steven Spielberg's "The Fabelmans."

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery," the first movie from Netflix to appear in the largest theater chains before it's available on streaming, brought in $13.3 million over five days in a closely watched limited run.

The total is projected to reach $15 million in the U.S. and Canada when the movie completes its seven-day run last week, according to a person familiar with the matter. The movie played on almost 700 screens, for revenue of about $19,000 per screen, the best average for any film over the weekend, the person said.

Between the "Glass Onion" oddity and the "Strange World" miss, it was a reminder that the exhibition business is still far from normal.

"This was not pre-destined to be a blockbuster Thanksgiving weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore's senior media analyst. He noted that the marketplace is still being affected by the pandemic's effects on Hollywood production and release schedules.

Disney has historically "owned" the Thanksgiving weekend. Walt Disney Studios and Pixar animated titles account for the top six Thanksgiving openings of all time. But it's also been a difficult two years at the company.

"Strange World" opened in 4,714 locations on Wednesday, but it was clear from early preview showings that it was going to be slow going. On Friday, it earned only $5.2 million. "Wakanda Forever," by contrast, made $18.2 million on Friday in 4,258 theaters and has been out for three weeks.

The animated adventure film's debut is one of the bigger bombs in the modern history of the Disney Animation studio, similar to the $16 million 2002 Thanksgiving opening of "Treasure Planet."

A lack of new family oriented films over the past several weeks may have resulted in "muted" awareness for "Strange World," according to Dergarabedian.

Third place went to "Devotion," directed by JD Dillard and starring Jonathan Majors and Glenn Powel, which made $9 million in its first five days and $6 million over the weekend from 3,405 locations. The war epic is based on the true story of Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in the history of the U.S. Navy, who along with his friend Tom Hudner were pivotal in turning the tide in one of the most brutal battles of the Korean War.

"The Menu," the satirical fine-dining thriller starring Ralph Feinnes and Anya Taylor-Joy, landed in fourth in its second weekend, with $7.4 million over the past five days and $5.2 million over the weekend. Fifth place went to "Black Adam."

In sixth place for the weekend was Spielberg's "The Fabelmans," which is based on the filmmaker's own family and teenage years. The Universal release expanded to 638 theaters, where it earned $3.1 million over five days and $2.2 million over the weekend.

United Artists Releasing rolled "Bones and All" out to 2,727 theaters, where it made an estimated $3.6 million over the five-day opening, with $2.2 million of that coming from the weekend.

In more limited releases, Elegance Bratton's "The Inspection " expanded to 32 screens and earned $103,033 over five days.

Overall ticket sales are expected to net out around $125 million. That would be down about 12% from last year. For movie theater owners, it places even more pressure on "Avatar: The Way of Water," to deliver a big windfall to close out the year. It launches on Dec. 16.

"Usually Thanksgiving weekend is all about kids and families going to the theater. This year, it's a heavy mix of films aimed at adults and that's not a recipe for a box office feast in theaters," Dergarabedian said. "But it'll come back in a big way when Avatar opens."

  photo  This image released by Disney shows Ethan Clade, voiced by Jaboukie Young-White, left, Meridian Clade, voiced by Gabrielle Union, center, and Searcher Clade, voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal, in a scene from the animated film "Strange World." (Disney via AP)
  photo  This image released by Disney shows, clockwise from foreground center Meridian Clade, voiced by Gabrielle Union Searcher Clade, voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal, Jaeger Clade, voiced by Dennis Quaid, Callisto Mal, voiced by Lucy Liu, Ethan Clade, voiced by Jaboukie Young-White in a scene from the animated film "Strange World." (Disney via AP)
  photo  This image released by Netflix shows Kate Hudson, from left, Jessica Henwick, Daniel Craig and Leslie Odom Jr. in a scene from "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery." (John Wilson/Netflix via AP)
  photo  This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jonathan Majors, left, and Glen Powell in a scene from "Devotion." (Eli Ade/Columbia Pictures-Sony via AP)
  photo  This image released by MGM Pictures shows Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell in a scene from "Bones and All." (Yannis Drakoulidis/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures via AP)

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