The weekend after the long Thanksgiving is one of the worst. Too early for top Christmas releases, and too many people are otherwise occupied. Bad numbers become self-fulfilling prophecy. And with no studio opening in 2,000+ theaters, exhibitors could be looking for the lowest total for the year, around $74 million for the Top 10.
There are exceptions; this weekend last year, the smart and well-received horror comedy “Krampus” took in a surprising $16 million, with a strong 2.5 times multiple. That’s not going to happen this time. Even with likely drops of 50-60 percent, last week’s top entries — “Moana” (Disney) and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Warner Bros.) — will repeat, and it’s possible that “Doctor Strange” (Disney), and “Allied” and “Arrival” (both Paramount) could fill the next three slots.
READ MORE: Top 10 Takeaways: ‘Moana’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Lead Robust Holiday Box OfficeWith a month remaining, domestic gross for 2016 stands at a little under $10.2 billion. That’s about $380 million (4 percent) ahead of the 11 months’ total for last year. With “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” on the horizon (December 16) and the rest of the Christmas lineup (and significant results for “Moana” and “Beasts” ahead), total returns for 2016 likely will surpass last year’s unadjusted record of $11.1 billion. Currently, the amassed total is just $1 billion shy of that number; expect December to make up the difference.
This week’s two new nationwide releases will have very little impact on the result. “Incarnate” (High Top) is another Blumhouse Prods. low-budget horror film with signs of above-average pedigree. Though a microbudget production, its director is Brad Peyton. His last two films (“Journey 2” and “San Andreas”) both had $100 million+ domestic totals, so this looks like a diversion. It stars Aaron Eckhart (in his third fall film after “Sully” and “Bleed for This”) as a scientist fighting a demon who has possessed a young boy. Even so, expectations are for this to fall far short of $10 million in a scheduled 1,737 dates.
Freestyle will release the faith-based “Believe” in territories likely to embrace its message of Christmas under siege. Kirk Cameron pushed the same buttons two years back with his “Saving Christmas,” which opened to just under $1 million in 410 theaters. This should do a bit more.
That leaves the strong tandem of “Moana” and “Fantastic Beasts” to do the heavy lifting on the Top Ten gross. The Disney animated film is likely to have a better hold with a drop of about half, which would be excellent after a holiday weekend. “Frozen”, which had a slightly better opening, dropped 53% its second weekend; anything at that level or less would be a terrific showing.
Every week for the rest of the year will feature at least one significant new platform release with elevated awards hopes. This week brings Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie” (Fox Searchlight) with Natalie Portman considered a strong Best Actress candidate for her portrayal of the former first lady. It debuts in five key New York/Los Angeles theaters.