In 2013, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire broke the Thanksgiving box office record in its second weekend of release, grossing $74.2 million over the 3-day weekend and $109.9 million over the 5-day. Six years later, the sequel to the #2 film that weekend, Frozen, has come and shattered both records. Frozen II grossed an estimated $85.25 million over the 3-day weekend and $123.75 million over the 5-day, bringing its 10-day total to $287.6 million.
For five of the last six Novembers (including November 2013), Disney has released its fall event animated film the day before Thanksgiving, usually after a PG-13 event film has opened the Friday prior – A Hunger Games, a Fantastic Beasts, even a Justice League. But last year Disney made the decision to move Frozen II from that Wednesday slot to the Friday slot typically held by that PG-13 event film. The move turned out to be a brilliant one, maximizing the movie’s grosses in a way that a Wednesday opening would not have done. Its -35% drop was the second smallest drop of all time for a $100+ million opener, behind another holiday-aided animated juggernaut sequel, Shrek 2. And while the film’s first weekend gross of $130 million was the 32nd biggest weekend of all time, its second weekend was the 8th biggest of all time, and the biggest ever for an animated film, topping Incredibles 2. The film will have a steep tumble next weekend as all films do post-Thanksgiving, but with a second weekend this high expect the film to continue to play strongly through Christmastime and into 2020.
Opening in second place was Knives Out, which over-performed with a $27 million 3-day gross and a $41.7 million 5-day gross (which includes $2 million from preview screenings held last weekend). Going into the holiday weekend, the film was viewed as a bit of a wildcard, as an original live-action film with no attachment to any pre-existing properties (aside from some Agatha Christie inspiration), and while the cast was stacked with recognizable names, no one in the film has ever been a consistent box office draw on their own. However, ecstatic reviews from critics and marketing that promised twists and turns with a side of humor helped bump up interest, and the film’s start is the third-best ever for an original live-action film over the holiday weekend, behind only 2000’s Unbreakable and 2008’s Four Christmases. But while audiences had mixed reactions to those films, giving each films a C and B Cinemascore respectively, Knives Out received a solid A-, also better than the one other event whodunnit release this decade, 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express. Expect strong legs to carry the film to a final total somewhere north of $100 million.
In third and fourth place were two other critically acclaimed non-franchise properties, Ford v Ferrari and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which had solid holds over the holiday. In its third weekend Ford v Ferrari dropped -16% to $13.2 million, and Beautiful Day eased a mere -11% to $11.8 million in its second weekend. The two holds were the second and third best among all wide releases (behind only the family-aimed Playing with Fire), further indicating strong word-of-mouth for both movies.
In fifth place was another over-performing opener, Queen & Slim, which grossed $11.7 million over the 3-day and $15.7 million over the 5-day in only 1,690 theaters. Like Knives Out, the film seemed like a bit of a wildcard, possibly being too dark for the holiday weekend. However, strong reviews and eye-popping marketing helped build interest for the film, and turned out to be smart counter-programming, and with a $20 million budget it will be profitable by the end of its second weekend. Audiences are enjoying the film (it received an A- from Cinemascore), so expect decent legs to carry the film to a strong $40 million total.
With Queen‘s over-performance, the weekend’s top 5 marks the rare time that all five films in the weekend’s top 5 are also all critically well-acclaimed (all five are certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes), and the even-rarer case where four of those movies are non-franchise properties that are going to make solid profits for their respective studios. Even if the #1 film is another billion dollar Disney juggernaut, it is a nice reminder that, as long as studios are making quality films, audiences will show up even if it isn’t based around an IP that audiences that seen dozens of times before.
1. Frozen II – $85.25 million (-35%)
2. Knives Out – $27 million (NEW)
3. Ford v Ferrari – $13.2 million (-16%)
4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – $11.8 million (-11%)
5. Queen & Slim – $11.7 million (NEW)
6. 21 Bridges – $5.8 million (-37%)
7. Playing with Fire – $4.2 million (-7%)
8. Midway – $4 million (-15%)
9. Joker – $2 million (-26%)
10. Last Christmas – $2 million (-36%)