Disney’s South Pacific animated story “Moana” fell short of a “Frozen”-sized debut, but still dominated the Thanksgiving box office with an estimated $81.1 million over the five-day weekend.
The well-reviewed “Moana,” about a princess mythical journey in the ancient Polynesia, earned $55.5 million from Friday to Sunday in North America, according to studio estimates Sunday. Although it is not with the 2013 Thanksgiving release of “Frozen” ($93.6 million over five days in 2013), “Moana” (“MWAH-nah”) has scored the second-highest Turkey Day debut ever.
Encouraged by the star power of Dwayne Johnson and the appeal of the original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton” “Moana” landed Disney another huge hit in a year full of them. The studio has a notched four of the six films (“Finding Dory, “” Captain America: civil war,” “Zootopia,” “The Jungle Book”) and still is “Star Wars: Rogue” coming in December.
“If you look at the track record of this year, there is a correlation with the films that have broken off and becomes a hit,” said Dave Hollis, head of domestic distribution of Disney. “Each of the (Disney top performers) had Rotten tomatoes scores in the 90 percent range, each of them had CinemaScores were. If you make something that has great story and massive scale, and is eventually living under the brand, the chances of success are generally higher.”
Falling to second was J. K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which earned $65.8 million over the five-day weekend and $ 45.1 million over the three-day weekend. The Harry Potter spinoff, Warner Bros., has brought in $156.2 million in two weeks. Abroad, “Fantastic Beasts,” debuted in China, where the $41.1 million fed has a weekend haul of $132 million internationally.
Those two blockbusters far exceeded more star-driven movies.
The Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, world War II romance “Allied” opened with a mediocre $18 million over five days. The Paramount Pictures release, directed by Robert Zemeckis, it costs a hefty $85 million to make. But for a proud old-fashioned film is built around the gravitational pull of the star, the “Allied” had largely to do without Pitt’s promotional presence. The actor’s divorce from Angelina Jolie largely been superseded by the film, which attracted an audience of 85 percent in the age group of 25 years.
“It played older and older audiences not storm theatres in the weekend. I think that they are going to take their time,” said Kyle Davies, on the Front of the head of the domestic distribution. “There is not a large influx of new movies until you get closer to Christmas, so we think it will be good for the playability of the picture.”
But Warren Beatty’s first film in 15 years, the 1950s Hollywood comedy “Rules do not Apply,” resolutely bombed with $2.2 million more than the five-day weekend. Written and directed by warren Beatty also co-stars Howard Hughes, “Rules are not Applicable” the 79-year-old star’s first directed feature since 1998’s “Bulworth.” Although Beatty has worked hard to make the film (made for about $25 million), its slim overall despite playing on 2,382 screens is one of the worst debut of any wide release in the past few years.
“Bad Santa 2,” of Broad Green and Miramax, not flop as bad as “Rules do not Apply,” but it pulled in a scant $9 million more than five days. The sequel, again starring Billy Bob Thornton, comes 13 years after the 2003.
In limited release, a number of potential awards contenders packed theatres. Debuting on a handful of screens were “the Lion” ($32,092 per-screen average), with Dev Patel, and “Miss Sloane” ($21,000 per-screen average), with Jessica Chastain. Expanding from four to 48 screens was the “Manchester of the Sea,” starring Casey Affleck. It took in $1.3 million, with a per-screen average of $26,048.
The holiday weekend was the sixth largest Thanksgiving at the box office, according to comScore, falling slightly behind the most recent years. But the strong business, led by well-rated tent pole releases, continued what is a healthy fall, by 4.5 percent compared to last year.
“I don’t think you could find a better line-up in the cinema, now,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “I’d rather see a group of movies might not be breaking a record than a group of terrible films breaking records left and right. This is better for the long term. This creates goodwill.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Moana,” $55.5 million ($16.3 million international).
2. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” $45.1 million ($132 million internationally).
3. “Doctor Strange,” $13.4 million ($9.8 million international).
4. “Allied,” $13 million ($9.4 million international).
5. “Arrival,” $11.3 million ($6.7 million international).
6. “Trolls,” $10.4 million ($7.2 million international).
7. “Bad Santa 2,” $6.1 million ($1.4 million international).
8. “Almost Christmas” $5.7 million.
9. “Hacksaw Ridge,” $5.5 million ($2.1 million international).
10. “The Edge of Seventeen,” $3 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:
1. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” $132 million.
2. “Moana,” $16.3 million.
3. “Doctor Strange,” $9.8 million.
4. “Allied,” $9.4 million.
5. “Trolls,” $7.2 million.
6. “Arrival,” $6.7 million.
7. “Jack Reacher: Never go Back,” $6.1 million.
8. “Brother,” $6.1 million.
9. “I Am Not Madam Bovary,” $6 million.
10. “Sky on Fire,” $3.8 million.