New films try to make the holiday pay off

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is traditionally regarded as one of the biggest moviegoing periods of the year, when studios roll out some of their major releases in hopes of attracting kids who are out of school and adults who have a few days off from work.

So why aren’t there any guaranteed blockbusters coming out this Thanksgiving?

Among films being released this week, the one with arguably the best chance at hitting box office gold is Disney’s new animated feature, “Treasure Planet.” Beyond that, there is the animated movie “Adam Sandler’s 8 Crazy Nights”; George Clooney in the outer-space romantic drama “Solaris”; the action film “Extreme Ops,” starring Devon Sawa and tennis star Pete Sampras’ wife, Bridgette Wilson; and a genre horror thriller called “Wes Craven Presents: They,” which features even lesser known actors than “Extreme Ops.”

But a look at studio release patterns for recent Thanksgivings suggests that films that do best in the period are usually those already in theaters.


Statistics compiled by the box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. show that in the past four years, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” topped the box office charts even though they were released before Thanksgiving weekend. “Toy Story 2" and “A Bug’s Life,” which had opened the prior weekend exclusively at the El Capitan, built on the buzz from that one theater to top the box office their first nationwide weekends in 1999 and 1998, respectively.

Less stellar performers that opened Thanksgiving weekend include “Spy Games,” “End of Days” and “Alien: Resurrection,” none of which came anywhere near $100 million in total box office.

This year, look for the new James Bond thriller, “Die Another Day,” which opened Friday, to stay atop the charts going into its second week.

“Opening on Thanksgiving weekend doesn’t guarantee you to be No. 1,” said Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian. “Thanksgiving gives movies already in release a boost because they are a known quantity ... and Thanksgiving gives people a chance to catch up with them.”