‘Encanto’ Leads a Box Office That’s Lacking Holiday Spirit


Exhibitors are seeing lower grosses from fewer movies. How long will distributors continue putting their faith in theatrical exclusivity?

After a strong October, theaters hoped recovery would stabilize. Better yet, that improvement would continue over the holidays, starting with the five-day Thanksgiving period.

As is typical, a Disney animated film — this time, “Encanto” — leads the field. It grossed $40.3 million over five days, which is a pale comparison against 2019. That’s when “Frozen II” grossed $125 million in its second weekend and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” opened to $85 million. “Coco” grossed $73 million in 2018.

It’s impossible to compensate for that gap. Over five days, total box office will be around $146 million, more than $115 million under 2019 — a 55 percent decline. Against the rolling four-weekend gauge, it performed at 62 percent of 2019.

As October showed, results vary. But if that shortfall continues, it would be deeply problematic for theaters. Not only would it impact their immediate financial capacity, but it could also impact distributors’ enthusiasm for theatrical exclusivity.

©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

Not only are grosses lagging, but fewer films are being released. That double whammy means that when “House of Gucci” (United Artists) opens to $22 million for five days — a huge uptick from earlier adult-oriented standalone films this year — it is only a minor help. In 2019, “Knives Out” grossed $41 million for its initial five days. “Ford v Ferrari,” then in its third week, took in $19 million, again for five days.

“Gucci” has been one of the most anticipated films of the season. Ridley Scott’s retelling of murder within the Italian fashion family gained much of its advance interest from Lady Gaga’s involvement. In only her second lead role, she seems to have proven star appeal. Reaction, both critically and initial audience response, has been all over the map. Its Saturday gross had the same relative showing to its opening day as did the enthusiastically received “Knives,” suggesting a promising future for the film.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” placed second with $24.5 million over three days. With over $35 million in five days, it grossed close to 80 percent of its opening weekend; in the past, it wasn’t  uncommon for the five days to equal or better a strong opening weekend. It was likely impacted by an overlapping audience for “Encanto.”

“Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” opened wide but managed only $8.8 million for five days, a franchise low. This reboot attempt lacked original director Paul W.S. Anderson and lead Milla Jovovich. This franchise is largely an international play and its $25 million production cost could still be covered.

Below the radar, Universal sneaked Christmas release “Sing 2” at over 1,100 theaters. As usual, these haven’t been reported, but sources estimate it could gross $2.5 million or better, which would have placed it #8.

Beyond wide releases, there was a strong showing for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.” With $335,000 in four theaters, it surpassed all other platform debuts since early 2020 pre-COVID. Unlike most platforms, it had only one screen per complex, making PTA’s $84,000 PTA even more impressive.

Leading holdovers was “Eternals,” down only 29 percent. The seven holdovers in the top 10 fell an average of about 35 percent; there were eight holdovers this weekend in 2019, which fell only 22 percent.

“Drive My Car”

“Drive My Car” was the other notable limited opener. Ryusuke Hagamuchi’s three-hour film is one of year’s most acclaimed. Limited by running time, it had a decent five-day debut of $20,350 in two New York theaters. It opens next at Los Angeles’ Nuart theater this Friday.

The Top 10 (3 day)

1. Encanto (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 75; Est. budget: $120 million

$27,000,000 in 3,908 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $6,785;  Cumulative: $40,300,000

2. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$24,500,000 (-44%) in 4,315 (+16) theaters; PTA: $5,678; Cumulative: $87,758,000

3. House of Gucci (United Artists) NEW -Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: $75 million

$14,231,000 in 3,441 theaters (3 days); PTA: $4,093; Cumulative: $21,833,000

4. The Eternals (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$7,900,000 (-29%) in 3,165 (-390) theaters (3 days); PTA: $2,496; Cumulative: $150,644,000

5. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (Sony) NEW – Metacritic: 44; Est. budget: $25 million

$5,275,000 in 2,803 theaters; PTA: $1,882,000; Cumulative: $8,800,000

6. Clifford the Big Red Dog (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend #3; also on Paramount Plus

$4,875,000 (-40%) in 3,292 (-336) theaters; PTA: $1,481; Cumulative: $42,883,000

7. King Richard (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #4; also on HBO Max

$3,300,000 (-39%) in 3,302 (no change) theaters; PTA: $999; Cumulative: $11,378,000

8. Dune (Warner Bros.) Week 6; Last weekend #6

$2,165,000 (-39%) in 1,312 (-1,155) theaters; PTA: 1,710; Cumulative: $102,242,000

9. No Time to Die (United Artists) Week 8; Last weekend #7; also on Premium VOD

$1,753,000 (-37%) in 1,342 (-1,065) theaters; PTA: $1,306; Cumulative: $158,128,000

10. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony) Week 9; Last weekend #6; also on Premium VOD

$1,565,000 (-46%) in 1,537 (-693) theaters; PTA: $1,018; Cumulative: $209,516,000

Additional specialized/limited/independent releases 

Licorice Pizza (United Artists) NEW – Metacritic: 90

$335,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $83,852

Drive My Car (Janus) NEW – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2021

$14,930 in 2 theaters; PTA: $7,465; Cumulative: $20,350

C’mon C’mon (A24) Week 2

$293,787 in 102 (+97) theaters; PTA: $2,880; Cumulative: $378,067

India Sweets and Spices (Bleecker Street) Week 2

$33,186 in 121 (-222) theaters; PTA: $274; Cumulative: $247,869

Belfast (Focus) Week 3

$970,000 in 1,128 (+554) theaters, Cumulative: $4,951,000

Julia (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$95,680 in 288 (+241) theaters; Cumulative: $197,601

Spencer (Neon) – Week 4; also on Premium VOD

$211,028 in 346 (-608) theaters; Cumulative: $6,641,000

Last Night in Soho (Focus) – Week 5; also on Premium VOD

$53,000 in 110 (-279) theaters; Cumulative: $10,107,000

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