Thanksgiving weekend moviegoing was still far from the feast it normally is, but Disney’s Encanto and the Lady Gaga-led House of Gucci both gave a lift to two genres that have been particularly battered by the pandemic: family movies and adult dramas.
Encanto led the US box office with $27 million over the weekend and $40.3 million across the five-day holiday frame, according to studio estimates Sunday. While well off the pace of past Disney animated movies released over Thanksgiving — Coco launched at the same time of year with $72 million and Ralph Breaks the Internet did as well with $84 million — the result was the best opening for an animated movie during the pandemic.
Family films have been especially slow to bounce back, though with kids increasingly getting vaccinated, hopes have been rising that releases such as Encanto can lead a rebound. Disney earlier this year released films like Pixar’s Luca straight to Disney+, but put out Encanto, reportedly made for $120 million, exclusively in theaters. The film, about a magical Colombia family and featuring original songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, took in $70 million globally.
MGM’s House of Gucci, from director Ridley Scott, debuted with $14.2 million over the three-day weekend and $21.8 million across five days. That, too, was among the best performances for an adult drama. Scott’s own The Last Duel, for Disney’s 20th Century Studios, launched with a paltry $4.8 million in October.
The $75 million-budgeted House of Gucci, about the family behind the Italian fashion brand, features a large cast including Adam Driver, Jared Leto and Al Pacino. But its star, Lady Gaga, who plays Patrizia Reggiani, especially drove the turnout. According to MGM, 59% of the audience was female and 45% were between the ages of 18-35. About 34% were 45 years and older — a higher turnout among older moviegoers than most releases have seen.
“Originality still counts in the public’s mind,” said Erik Loomis, distribution chief for MGM. “We were really pleased with the results. If you asked me going into the weekend, I was praying that the predictions were right because you just don’t know today. You just don’t know how the market’s going to react.”
Thanksgiving weekend often accounts for around $250 million in ticket sales domestically. Overall business this weekend came in at about $142 million, according to data firm Comscore — a bit more than half of typical business but also almost seven times better than Thanksgiving 2020, when many theaters were still shuttered.
MGM has bet bigger on the theatrical recovery than most studios; its James Bond film No Time to Die, with $755 million globally, will rank as the No. 1 film of the year. Over the weekend, MGM also released Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, a coming-of-age romance starring Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, on four screens in 70mm for a per-screen average of $83,852 — easily the best of the pandemic. Licorice Pizza expands wider in the coming weeks.
“After all the talk of the reticence of certain demographics to go to the movie theater — more mature audiences and family audiences — both came out this weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “This Thanksgiving weekend at the box office should be very encouraging to the industry, for whom these audiences have been the toughest to bring back to movie theaters.”
Still, every step forward for the movie industry this year has been accompanied by setbacks. The discovery of the new, potentially more contagious omicron variant sent shudders through Hollywood, which has been trying to build back moviegoing habits. Even as nations scrambled to enact new travel regulations because of the variant, experts cautioned that much is still unknown about the new strain.
Last week’s top film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife slid to second place with $24.5 million in its second week after a modest 44% drop. The Sony Pictures release has grossed $87.8 million domestically and $28 million internationally. The studio’s horror division, Screen Gems, also opened the R-rated Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, a reboot in the now seven-film videogame adaptation franchise. It debuted with $5.3 million for the three-day weekend and $8.8 million for the holiday frame.
In its fourth weekend of release Marvel’s Eternals added $7.9 million in ticket sales over the three-day weekend to bring its North America cumulative total to $150.6 million and $368 million globally.
Focus Features expanded the Oscar contending Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical tale of his childhood in the Northern Ireland city, to 1,128 locations in its third week. Belfast earned $1.3 million over the five-day weekend, bringing its total thus far to $5 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. Encanto, $27 million.
2. Ghostbusters: Afterlife, $24.5 million.
3. House of Gucci, $14.2 million.
4. Eternals, $2.5 million.
5. Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City, $5.3 million.
6. Clifford the Big Red Dog, $4.9 million.
7. King Richard, $3.3 million.
8. Dune, $2.2 million.
9. No Time to Die, $1.8 million.
10. Venom: Let There Be Carnage, $1.6 million.