Disney has reclaimed its rightful place at the top of Thanksgiving box office charts. “Encanto,” the studio’s new animated musical fable, collected $40.3 million from 3,980 North American theaters since Wednesday, a robust tally at a time when family audiences haven’t been eager to return to cinemas.
It’s become holiday tradition for Disney to release a family friendly movie around Turkey Day, and “Encanto,” an animated adventure with critical acclaim, indicates that parents have been gaining confidence to bring their young kids back to the movies. Hollywood is hoping that trend continues now that children as young as 5 12 can get the COVID-19 vaccine. The film’s five-day total falls considerably short of the studio’s recent Thanksgiving releases, such as “Frozen II” in 2019 ($123.7 million), “Ralph Breaks the Internet” in 2018 ($84.6 million) and “Coco” in 2017 ($71 million). However, “Encanto” has landed the best opening weekend for an animated film during the pandemic. That’s notable because movies geared toward family crowds have struggled to sell tickets and in a normal year, animation is regularly one of the highest-grossing (if not the highest-grossing) genres.
This Thanksgiving is expectedly far quieter than years past, but theater owners and studio executives have been encouraged that “Encanto” wasn’t the sole movie to sell tickets. Rather, a range of films were able to successfully carve out a slice of box office pie. Moviegoers also feasted on MGM’s A-list crime drama “House of Gucci,” which brought in $14.2 million over the traditional weekend and $21.8 million from 3,477 venues in its first five days of release, proving there’s still an audience for adult dramas, as long as Lady Gaga is involved. “House of Gucci,” which finished the weekend in third place, affirms the pop star as a major big screen draw after her decorated turn in 2018’s musical drama “A Star Is Born.”
Though reception has been mixed — “House of Gucci” landed a “B+” CinemaScore from ticket buyers and a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics — Gaga’s larger-than-life portrayal of Patrizia Reggiani, an outsider who marries into the Gucci empire, has been a compelling force behind the film’s ticket sales. Ridley Scott directed the film, which dramatizes the downfall of the family behind the luxurious fashion brand. Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto and Salma Hayek also star.
“This is a very good opening for an original crime drama,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “As with families, older moviegoers have been reluctant to return to the movies.”
To put its opening in context, “House of Gucci” has earned more in its first weekend in theaters than other films aimed at older crowds, such as Will Smith’s sports drama “King Richard” ($11.3 million), Ridley Scott’s star-studded medieval drama “The Last Duel” ($10.8 million) and the “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark” ($7.6 million), made during their entire theatrical runs. The only adult-skewing movies that have managed to sell any tickets have been equipped with intricate special effects and heavy action sequences, in the case of MGM’s James Bond sequel “No Time to Die” with $155 million domestically and the Warner Bros. tentpole “Dune,” which inched past the $100 million mark this weekend with $102 million domestically.
Because of its $75 million production budget, “House of Gucci” will rely on substantial overseas ticket sales to turn a profit. Already, the R-rated drama has earned $12.8 million from 40 international countries, bringing its worldwide total to $34 million. Among foreign markets, “House of Gucci” had the biggest turnout in the United Kingdom and Ireland ($3.4 million), France ($1.9 million) and Mexico ($1 million).
“Encanto” was similarly pricey, costing the studio more than $120 million to make before accounting for hefty marketing fees. Both “Encanto” and “House of Gucci” are playing exclusively in theaters, which should prove to be beneficial in the way of ticket sales. Other pandemic-era releases that were available on streaming platforms on the same day as their theatrical debuts were plagued with depressed box office receipts.
Featuring original music from “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Encanto” should benefit from positive word-of-mouth. The film, centering on a family living in a magical village hidden in the mountains of Colombia, has been embraced by critics (it has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (it has a coveted “A” CinemaScore). The story follows Mirabel (voiced by “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Stephanie Beatriz), who is the only child in her village without a prodigious gift. Variety‘s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman praised it as “a lively, lovely, lushly enveloping digitally animated musical fairy tale.”
Overseas, “Encanto” debuted in 47 international markets and amassed $29.3 million. Since Wednesday, the cartoon tale has brought in $70 million at the global box office.
Also new to theaters this weekend is Sony’s “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City,” a reboot of the long-running horror series. The R-rated thriller landed in fifth place with $8.8 million over the five-day holiday stretch, a result that fell slightly short of expectations. It cost only $25 million to produce, so “Raccoon City” won’t have as much of an uphill battle to get out of the red.
In second place behind “Encanto,” Sony’s comedic sci-fi sequel “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” pulled in $24.5 million between Friday and Sunday and a strong $35 million since Wednesday. After 10 days on the big screen, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” has earned an impressive $87.7 million.
Disney’s “Eternals” landed at No. 4 with $7.9 million over the three-day weekend and $11.4 million during the five-day frame while playing in 3,165 venues. Since debuting exclusively in theaters earlier in November, the Marvel superhero epic has generated $150 million at the domestic box office. Globally, the film has made $368 million, a decent result for COVID times.
At the indie box office, Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age drama “Licorice Pizza” earned $335,000 while opening in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. With speciality offerings like “Licorice Pizza,” the key metric is per-theater-average rather than overall box office tally since its playing in very few locations. In those terms, “Licorice Pizza” averaged $83,852 per location, setting a new pandemic record. The well-reviewed film takes place in the 1970s San Fernando Valley and stars musician Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman (the son of Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper. Among inaugural ticket buyers, 72% were between the ages of 18 and 34 years old, while 66% were male. MGM and United Artists Releasing, the company’s that backed the $40 million-budgeted “Licorice Pizza,” plan to expand the movie nationwide on Christmas Day.
See this weekend’s estimated box office tally below:
“Encanto” — $40.3 million between Wednesday and Sunday
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” — $35 million between Wednesday and Sunday
“House of Gucci” — $21.8 million between Wednesday and Sunday
“Eternals” — $11.4 million between Wednesday and Sunday
“Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” — $8.8 million between Wednesday and Sunday