Once upon a time, far back in the early 2000s, the post-Thanksgiving weekend was a perfectly acceptable weekend to release a major new film and rake in solid box office numbers, whether that film was 2001’s Behind Enemy Lines ($18.7 million opening weekend, $58.9 million domestic total) or 2003’s The Last Samurai ($24.3 million opening weekend, $111.1 million domestic total). However, studios soon realized that if they released a film wide before December 12, it was prone to possibly losing all of its screens to the Christmas Day releases, and thus being out of theaters before the post-Christmas box office rush. The worst example of this was in 2015, when In the Heart of the Sea opened on December 11 to a disappointing $11.1 million in 3,103 theaters, and on December 25, after the film’s contractually obligated two-week run was up, 2,418 theaters dropped the film, leading to a paltry $25 million domestic total for what Universal probably hoped would be a major Christmas viewing option.
All of this is to say that this is why the new options this weekend, 19 days out from Christmas Day, are so slim. The only new wide release opening is Playmobil: The Movie, a film that was suppose to be released this past August by STX, but was pushed back so the distributor could put all of its chips on Hustlers. The film did open overseas and received ghastly reviews (it has a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes and 25 on Metacritic) and was a box office non-event in all countries. With a half-hearted marketing campaign here in the States, it’s unlikely to do much better here – Frozen II is still making boffo bucks, and Spies in Disguise has the mantle of major animated release of the month. Expect an Arctic Dogs-esque start with a $3 million weekend before being pushed out of theaters in two weeks for Cats, among other films.
Meanwhile, two other limited releases will be entering wide or semi-wide release, hoping to take advantage of any multiplexes desperate to shuffle Charlie’s Angels and The Good Liar (which are both losing 2,453 and 1,216 theaters respectively on Friday). Dark Waters has had a solid if unexceptional run in limited release, but is going ahead and expanding to 2,011 theaters. Reviews for the film have been decent, but the film never had a fall festival launch to build buzz, marketing has been soft, and star Mark Ruffalo has never proven himself as a major audience draw on his own. It should at least out-gross Playmobil with a $4 million weekend gross. The other expanding platform release is A24’s Waves, which after a solid opening weekend per-theater-average $33,583 has failed to build on that promise in the last two weekends. A24 is pushing ahead anyway with an expansion into 570 theaters, but the film seems unlikely to make anything more than $800,000 for the weekend.
With all of that in mind, expect the holdovers from last weekend to remain dominant while still experiencing typical post-Thanksgiving drops in the 45-60% range. Family films tend to experience the biggest drops since they benefit the most from the Thanksgiving holiday, so while Frozen II will hold onto the top spot, expect a drop closer to 60% than 45%. Knives Out, Ford v Ferrari, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Queen & Slim will probably be closer to 45%, aided by strong word-of-mouth for all four films. Drops below 45% would be ideal for any of them, as stronger holds this weekend means they might be more likely to hold onto screens at Christmastime, meaning a big Christmas bonus for their total grosses that could help them out in an exceptionally tight awards race.
1. Frozen II – $37 million (-57%)
2. Knives Out – $12.9 million (-52%)
3. Ford v Ferrari – $7.1 million (-50%)
4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – $6.1 million (-48%)
5. Queen & Slim – $5.8 million (-51%)
6. Dark Waters – $4 million (EXPANSION)
7. Playmobil: The Movie – $3 million (NEW)
8. 21 Bridges – $2.6 million (-54%)
9. Midway – $1.9 million (-52%)
10. Playing with Fire – $1.8 million (-58%