There’s not a lot to be thankful for at the Thanksgiving box office. Disney’s “Strange World” failed to entice family audiences, collapsing in its debut with $11.9 million from 4,174 North American theaters over the traditional weekend and $18.6 million over the five-day holiday frame.
That’s a catastrophic result for Disney, which has always been considered the gold standard in animation. But the studio has stumbled in pandemic times with “Lightyear,” one of the few Pixar films to lose money in its theatrical run, as well as “Encanto,” which didn’t become a viral TikTok sensation until the musical fable landed on its streaming service. The $180 million-budgeted “Strange World” is poised to be another money loser for Disney, unless business miraculously recovers in the next few weeks. But that’s not likely since the film, an animated adventure about a family of legendary explorers, has mediocre reviews, a tepid “B” CinemaScore and minimal buzz. If the movie replicates the sales of “Lightyear” (which fizzled with $226 million worldwide) and “Encanto” (which tapped out with $256 million worldwide), “Strange World” stands to lose at least $100 million in its theatrical run.
“This is a weak opening by Disney animation standards,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “At a cost of $180 million, plus marketing expenses, the film will finish in the red, even with good ancillary income.”
Overall, it’s been a bleak Turkey Day holiday at the box office with ticket sales capping off at just $125 million. Those figures mark a 10% decline from last Thanksgiving’s somewhat disappointing $142 million bounty, boosted by “Encanto” and “House of Gucci.” This year’s downward trend is particularly concerning Thanksgiving, at least in the pre-pandemic era, used to consistently deliver strong box office results to the tune of at least $250 million over five days.
“Strange World” may not be getting a sequel or Disney+ spinoff series based on inaugural ticket sales, but there’s still some space for optimism at the Magic Kingdom. Disney and Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” towered over box office charts for the third weekend in a row, landing in first place ahead of newcomer “Strange World.” The superhero sequel brought in $45.9 million over the traditional weekend and $64 million over the five-day frame, boosting its domestic tally to $367 million. After three weeks of release, it’s already the fifth-highest grossing movie of the year in North America. And soon, it’ll be one of three films in 2022 to cross $400 million at the domestic box office.
Other than “Wakanda Forever,” this year’s Thanksgiving offerings were forced to settle for scraps. In third place, “Devotion,” an inspirational drama starring Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell, landed the best start among newcomers with $6 million over the traditional weekend and $9 million since Wednesday. Still, that’s a tragic turnout because the film, from Sony and Black Label Media, carries a $90 million price tag.
Somehow, ticket sales for “Devotion” look like blockbuster figures compared to “The Fabelmans” and “Bones and All,” which majorly stumbled as they expanded their theater counts. “Bones and All,” an R-rated cannibal love story from director Luca Guadagnino and star Timothee Chalamet, took sixth place with $2.1 million from 2,727 theaters over the traditional weekend and a mediocre $3.4 million over the five-day frame.
At No. 7, Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical “The Fabelmans” finished the weekend with $2.2 million between Friday and Sunday from 638 cinemas — a fraction of the number of theaters playing “Bones and All” — and $3.1 million since Wednesday.
One positive aspect for studios like Universal, which is backing ‘The Fabelmans,” is the shorter theatrical window. By putting movies on demand within weeks of their theatrical debuts, film companies can efficiently capitalize on marketing campaigns, giving them a much-needed financial cushion.
More to come…