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From ‘Queen & Slim’ to ‘Knives Out,’ Women and Original Films Rule at the Holiday Box Office

From ‘Queen & Slim’ to ‘Knives Out,’ Thanksgiving box office tells us that audiences want more than corporate-product, cash-grab sequels.

Queen and Slim

“Queen & Slim”

Universal Pictures

This shouldn’t be noteworthy, but it is: There are three women directors in the top 10 at the box office. “Frozen 2,” directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee; “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” directed by Marielle Heller; and “Queen & Slim,” directed by Melina Matsoukas.

Even better: “Queen & Slim” is an original film (with a screenplay by Lena Waithe), as is Rian Johnson’s Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery “Knives Out.” Each of these films is buoyed by strong reviews and positive Cinemascores, and all will factor into Oscar season, which means they should expect to enjoy continued play through the end of the year and into next.

The top spot for the weekend will no doubt go to “Frozen 2” which, at more than $200 million domestic, makes it Disney Animation Studios’ most successful franchise since “The Lion King.”

On the other end of the spectrum, “Knives Out” and “Queen & Slim” will both sit comfortably in the top five, and studios should take note: Audiences want edgy, unique narratives that offer more than the corporate-product cash grab of a sequel.

It’s been a stellar year overall for women directors at the box office, from Kasi Lemmons with the biopic “Harriet” and Lorene Scafaria with stripper drama “Hustlers,” to co-director Anna Fleck’s MCU tentpole “Captain Marvel” and Olivia Wilde’s smart indie “Booksmart,” an over-the-summer release that is returning to the fray amid the awards season.

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While Elizabeth Banks’ reboot “Charlie’s Angels,” starring Kristen Stewart, is barely hanging on, (it was unceremoniously dumped out of the top 10 after one week of release), actor-turned-director Banks is rebounding with her followup film, the horror movie “The Invisible Woman,” for Universal Pictures. She will also star in that film, which is based on legacy Universal IP and penned by “The Girl on the Train” scribe Erin Cressida Wilson.

Meanwhile at the box office, the November 27 arrival of Martin Scorsese’s devastating gangster epic “The Irishman” on Netflix hasn’t kept audiences out of theaters. The film is still playing theatrically on the heels of a run that found sold-out showings across New York and Los Angeles.

Read IndieWire’s full Thanksgiving box office report so far here.

Additional reporting by Tom Brueggemann.

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