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‘Coco’ helps bring the box office back from the dead

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“Coco,” Pixar Animation’s latest movie, led the box office over Thanksgiving weekend.
(Disney / Pixar)

Pixar’s “Coco” had the spirits on its side over the long Thanksgiving weekend, pulling in estimated ticket sales of $71.2 million over the five-day holiday, good for the No. 1 spot at the box office.

The animated film, set during Mexico’s Día de los Muertos celebration, scored an A-plus rating with opening night audiences, per market research firm CinemaScore.

While the movie’s box office take fell short of that of “Moana” and “Frozen” — Disney animated movies that have opened on previous Thanksgiving weekends — the sizable take spells good news for a studio that was rocked last week when Pixar co-founder John Lasseter announced he was taking a six-month sabbatical in wake of “missteps” that made some employees feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.”

“These are really solid numbers, particularly given how volatile the box office has been this year,” said comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “It’s another win for the Pixar brand.”

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“Coco” has already set one box office record, becoming the highest-grossing movie in Mexico’s history after opening there four weeks ago ahead of the Día de los Muertos holiday. “Coco” also debuted in China this weekend and is on pace to become Pixar’s biggest hit in a country that, thus far, has been largely immune to its charms.

“Justice League,” the latest DC Comics superhero movie, earned $60 million, falling 57% from its opening weekend total. The comic book flick has now grossed $171.5 million in its 10-day run.

Though that take is substantial, it falls short of other DC titles. “Wonder Woman” grossed $206.3 million in its first 10 days in June and “Suicide Squad” took in $222.6 million in its first 10 days in August 2016.

The tasteful tearjerker “Wonder” took in $22.3 million, good for third place, dropping just 19% from its opening weekend. Like “Coco,” “Wonder” earned an A-plus CinemaScore grade. The well-reviewed family drama, based on the popular children’s novel by R.J. Palacio, looks like it possesses the staying power to keep it in theaters into the new year. With a $20-million budget and a 10-day total of $69.4 million, the film is shaping up to be a hit for Lionsgate.

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“It’s going to make it to $100 million easily,” Dergarabedian said.

“Call Me by Your Name,” Luca Guadagnino’s swooning, sensual love story, grossed $405,000 from four theaters in Los Angeles and New York, earning the year’s best opening theater average at $101,000 per screen. (“Lady Bird” took in $91,000 per theater last month.)

The movie, set in northern Italy, centers on an evolving affair between a precocious 17-year-old (Timothée Chalamet) and a handsome, mysterious American (Armie Hammer) staying the summer at his family’s villa. Critics have fallen for the drama, making it the year’s top-rated film on review aggregator Metacritic.

“Darkest Hour,” a historical drama covering the beginning of Winston Churchill’s days as prime minister during World War II, also opened well, grossing $176,000 in a limited release in New York and Los Angeles. The movie serves as something of a companion piece to Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” covering roughly the same period of time. Gary Oldman’s turn as Churchill has been regarded as an early front-runner for the lead actor Oscar.

The Denzel Washington character study “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” opened wider, but with less satisfactory results. Taking in $6.2 million in 1,669 theaters, the drama failed to connect with audiences, earning a so-so B grade with CinemaScore and just $2,705 per screen. That puts moviegoers’ reactions in line with that of critics, who generally praised Washington’s subtle performance but found fault with the movie’s labored storytelling.

glenn.whipp@latimes.com

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