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‘Frozen II’ and ‘Knives Out’ Cut Swath Through Modest Thanksgiving Box Office

The holiday box office bounty was shared by the few, not the many.

“Knives Out”

Lionsgate / screencap

Two days into the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the strong survive while the rest are middling. It’s no surprise that Disney’s “Frozen II” is dominating the box office, with an amazing second weekend and a staggering total so far.

Other results are more modest. Lionsgate’s “Knives Out” opened well, with robust holdovers for “Ford v Ferrari” (20th Century Fox) and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Sony); still-expanding “Queen & Slim” (Universal) looks promising. And yet, when all numbers come in, expect a lackluster total holiday number compared to recent years.

Notably, among the top five titles are three women directors: “Frozen II” (shared), “Beautiful Day,” and “Queen & Slim.”

Here’s the lay of the land going into Black Friday:

Totals Look Good, But Hardly Record

Last year marked the best of the last six Thanksgiving holidays, amassing $310 million for five days. Its Wednesday and Thursday came to $95 million. This year, that number is $82 million. While not every year has exactly the same weekend trajectory, this weekend should wind up at $185 million  vs. last year’s $215 million.

That would make Thanksgiving weekend 2019, in sold tickets, a decent but not stellar seventh-best over the past ten years, thanks largely to “Frozen II.”

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"Frozen 2"

“Frozen II”

Disney

Audiences Want More “Frozen”

Disney jumped ahead of the usual Wednesday opening for an animated franchise title by opening “Frozen II” last weekend. The movie took in $130 million; the weekdays added $74 million; and the weekend is projecting to $80-100 million more. That would bring the total to $280-300 million domestic. Context: the first “Frozen,” which had a conventional Wednesday start, grossed a little under $100 million its first five days. The entire run, with spectacular holds, came in at a little over $400 million.

That the “Frozen” franchise is the biggest Disney Animation Studio success since “The Lion King” is proven by the initial “Frozen II” run — well ahead of the first. Prospects are also bright for upcoming December sequels “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Disney) and “Jumanji: The Next Level” (Sony).

“Queen & Slim”

Two Originals Pick Their Spot

If the weekend otherwise isn’t at record levels, that’s due to the lack of a second blockbuster–as studios remain reluctant to challenge the Disney juggernaut. Two atypical holiday releases stepped into the vacuum, with good results.

Standout among the two is Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out.” With nearly $15 million in the till (including some early shows last weekend), the weekend should add easily add $20 million more, with $25 million possible. That would bring it to $35-40 million as a start — way above expectations, and a terrific result for an off-beat murder comedy. For a modest $40-million high-concept title with a mature ensemble cast and strong reviews, that’s as good as you could wish.

“Queen & Slim” had a targeted release at around 1,625 theaters (around half of “Knives Out”), with about $3.5 million for its first two days. The  lower-budgeted $20 million movie projects to $8-9 million more for the weekend, around $12 million total. The film, about a couple on a first date who kill a cop in self-defense, has landed favorable reviews.

Both films showed strength with A- Cinemascores and unusually strong second-day response (most day-before holiday Thanksgiving openers drop day two; these both were about the same). Word of mouth is key for both. “Knives”  projects to be the #2 film for the weekend, “Queen” #5.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Sony

“Ford v Ferrari” and “It’s a Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood” Hold Well

James Mangold’s car-racing film slightly edged out Marielle Heller’s Mr. Rogers film by $3 million last weekend. This weekend they are neck and neck, with both projecting to $11-13 million. In fact, “Beautiful Day” beat out “Ford” $3.1 million to $2.8 million yesterday. After some initial resistance, it could be connecting with audiences just in time.

Though Sunday, the week earlier-opening “Ford” will have hit about $80 million, with “Beautiful Day” nearing $35 million. The former cost about $100 million, and is showing early international appeal. The latter was made for only $25 million, so if these early numbers lead to multiple week interest and even a Christmas boost, it could become a modest winner for Sony.

Streaming Competition Doesn’t Seem to Be Hurting Theaters

We can assume that many people streamed Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” on its first two days on Netflix. But there is no sign that it’s affecting theater attendance. Nor has the new Disney+ dented “Frozen II.” This might be a long term concern, but at this point it’s not a problem.

While “The Irishman” appeared at home, its print count doubled to 500 theaters nationally Wednesday. That’s close to as many that were available to Netflix when most chains shut them out. No figures to report yet, but expect it to continue to find interest on screen.

The most recent of their awards contenders, “The Two Popes,” opened four platform theaters on Wednesday. Individual theaters with ticket sale options showing suggest minor initial interest, though that might improve over the weekend.

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