This past weekend, Disney brought some much-needed heat to the box office with the release of Frozen II, which moved up a week early from Disney’s traditional Thanksgiving Wednesday release in what proved to be a successful effort to deliver a record opening weekend. The film ended up becoming the first animated film outside of the summer season to open to over $100 million, and with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, it is likely in for a strong hold over the coming days. Most pre-Thanksgiving openers have been of the PG-13, Young Adult-aimed variety (Twilight, Hunger Games, Fantastic Beasts), most of which dropped more than 50% over the Thanksgiving frame. But animated sequels tend to be less frontloaded than live-action sequels even when they open big, and with a Thanksgiving boost Frozen II should be able to avoid a 50% drop, making a strong $70 million over the Friday-Sunday weekend frame, pushing it north of $240 million and already putting it ahead of the lifetime grosses of recent November animated releases like Ralph Breaks the Internet and Coco.
Looking to finish in second place is Knives Out, one of only two wide releases opening this holiday weekend. Buzz has been strong for the mystery-comedy since it premiered to raves at the Toronto International Film Festival in November, and the film still sports an outstanding 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 85 on Metacritic – the latter tops Booksmart as the best Metascore for a wide release this year. Even with the raves, the film is not an easy sell, as whodunnits of this type rarely receive big theatrical releases anymore, with the exception of Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express update in 2017, so Lionsgate held preview screenings on Friday and Saturday this past weekend. Those preview screening earned the film $2 million, which will be rolled into Wednesday’s opening day gross (along with Tuesday evening’s preview numbers). Early audience reactions have been strong, with a 96% verified audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. With that strong early word-of-mouth and a weekend light on other new options, expect a weekend gross of $17 million and a 5-day (plus Friday/Saturday/Tuesday previews) of about $28 million.
The #3 and #4 slots will likely be taken by two holdovers that have also received strong reviews and audience word-of-mouth, Ford v Ferrari and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Ford dropped 50% in its second weekend, but drops like that on the pre-Thanksgiving weekend are normal for holdovers (last year’s WOM sensation Bohemian Rhapsody, another Fox film, had a -49% drop on its third weekend in the pre-Thanksgiving weekend frame). As long as the film drops less than 20% this weekend, it should manage to have good legs to carry it through December. Beautiful Day had a soft opening by the standards of a Tom Hanks vehicle (even below the likes of Inferno), but with an ‘A’ Cinemascore and minimal competition this weekend, should have a modest drop in the 10-20% range.
Likely to round out the top 5 will be the weekend’s one other new release, Queen & Slim. The film will likely be a tough sell over the long holiday weekend, with its heavy subject of police brutality and a black couple on the run from the law, in the vein of . However, the film’s plot does evoke classics like Thelma & Louise and Bonnie & Clyde, and the film has received strong reviews (84% on Rotten Tomatoes, 75 on Metacritic). Last year The Hate U Give, with a domestic gross of just under $30 million, showed that there is an audience for films that wrestle with topics like this, although that film did have a bestselling book with which to bring audiences in. Universal is giving the film a relatively small release in 1,625 theaters on Wednesday (and will add an additional 65 on Friday), so expect a 5-day gross around $10 million, and a weekend gross of $7 million.
1. Frozen II – $70 million (-46%)
2. Knives Out – $17 million (NEW)
3. Ford v Ferrari – $13.2 million (-16%)
4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – $11.3 million (-15%)
5. Queen & Slim – $7.5 million (NEW)
6. 21 Bridges – $6.1 million (-34%)
7. Playing with Fire – $3.2 million (-29%)
8. Midway – $2.9 million (-38%)
9. The Good Liar – $2.5 million (-26%)
10. Last Christmas – $2.4 million (-23%)