Disney’s new animated hit “Moana” and J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts” should have no trouble dominating the domestic box office charts again this weekend, as Hollywood sleeps off its Thanksgiving feast.
“Moana,” featuring the voices of Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, is expected to tack on an additional $25 million Friday through Sunday from the U.S. and Canada, after its robust $82-million launch during the five-day holiday weekend. (It cost more than $150 million to make.)
The question is whether that will be enough to hold off the third weekend of Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter spinoff “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which has demonstrated staying power with audiences hungry for Rowling’s wizarding world franchise. Analysts say it could fetch about $20 million this go-round.
The movie, starring Eddie Redmayne as a magical zoologist, has collected $156 million domestically in its first 10 days in theaters. It also has hauled in $318 million from foreign countries, for a global gross of $474 million — a positive sign for the five-film series Rowling is expected to write for the studio.
As Disney’s island adventure battles the witches and wizards for the top spot, virtually no major new films are coming into the market to compete. The only wide-release offering from the studios is the Aaron Eckhart horror movie “Incarnate,” which is likely to open with less than $5 million in U.S.-Canada ticket sales, according to people who have reviewed pre-opening audience surveys.
That leaves fellow holdovers like Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” Robert Zemeckis’ “Allied” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” to hunt for Thanksgiving leftovers at the multiplex.
The weekend after Thanksgiving is usually one of the weakest three-day periods of the year for the movie business, coming after holiday audiences binge on new films. At the same time last year, for example, the only new major release was Universal’s horror-comedy “Krampus.”
“This year’s post-Thanksgiving weekend is putting the industry on a wide-release diet,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office data firm comScore. “This strategy is not all that unusual and gives the marketplace a bit of a breather before launching back into a big title gambit.”
The lone new entry “Incarnate” stars Eckhart as an unconventional exorcist who confronts a demon that has possessed a young boy. The low-budget film, directed by Brad Peyton (“San Andreas”) and partly funded by Universal Pictures, is the latest effort from BH Tilt, an experimental label launched by “Ouija” and “The Purge” producer Jason Blum.
BH Tilt traffics in inexpensive scary movies targeted specifically to die-hard horror fans, so the company saves money on marketing and distribution. “Incarnate” will run in about 1,700 theaters, far less than the typical major horror movie. While a bow of $4 million to $5 million usually would be considered a disaster for a studio offering, BH Tilt says it would be satisfied with such a result.
Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight will test the indie film waters with “Jackie,” the well-reviewed biopic starring Natalie Portman as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the aftermath of JFK’s assassination. Searchlight will release the film in a handful of theaters this weekend in New York and Los Angeles.
It remains to be seen how the film will stack up against other recent prestigious limited releases. The Casey Affleck drama “Manchester by the Sea” scored an impressive $256,500 from four theaters in its first three days earlier this month. This weekend, it expands to 150 theaters in a bid to draw a larger audience.
The industrywide domestic box office already has passed the $10-billion mark, up 4.5% from the same time last year, according to ComScore.
The annual box office will face big tests in the coming weeks with movies like Lionsgate’s musical “La La Land,” Illumination Entertainment’s karaoke cartoon “Sing,” Sony’s space drama “Passengers” and Disney’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
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