As predicted, Thanksgiving weekend turned out to be less appetizing than many had wished. This year’s results are doubly concerning, coming on the heels of last year’s Thanksgiving which produced one of the lowest grosses in decades. One hopes that a “so-so” box office for Thanksgiving does not become the new normal, since the holiday has traditionally been one of the best five-day stretches of the year.
This year’s Thanksgiving weekend came in at only 86% of last year’s anemic results. This figure does not include any contribution from Netflix’s GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY, which opened Wednesday at 634 theatres across North America and grossed an estimated $10M for the weekend and $15M including Wednesday and Thursday. Netflix insisted that exhibitors not report grosses for the blockbuster sequel to the 2019 hit KNIVES OUT. Even if this extra amount had been included, the Thanksgiving box office for 2022 would not have equaled last year’s.
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER was the #1 picture for the third consecutive weekend, earning an additional $45.9M which is 31% down from last weekend. WAKANDA FOREVER has done better than last Thanksgiving’s top movie ENCANTO, which sold $26.3M for the three days of its opening weekend. However, the sequel has not equaled the results of the original, with WAKANDA FOREVER selling only 73% off BLACK PANTHER’s breathtaking total.
This year’s shortfall can be laid at the feet of the three Wednesday openers that all underperformed compared with the three new movies that opened before Thanksgiving one year ago.
Disney Animation’s STRANGE WORLD may be one of the biggest bombs ever for the storied studio, earning $11.9M over the three-day weekend and $18.6M for the five-day holiday period. This pales by comparison to last year’s ENCANTO, which earned $26.3M for the three days and $39.2M for the five. It’s not a coincidence that Disney chose this week to replace its embattled CEO Bob Chapek with his much-beloved predecessor Bob Iger.
Disney was forced to make the move after the very expensive WAKANDA FOREVER underperformed expectations and STRANGE WORLD opened with shockingly bad results. Everyone is now hoping that Iger can bring back to Disney some of the magic that he was known for during his initial 15-year tenure.
The second year-over-year comparison is between two adult-oriented movies, with Sony’s DEVOTION facing off against last year’s HOUSE OF GUCCI. The story of the first African American aviator in the history of the U.S. Navy was only able to earn $6M for three days and $9M over five. This was significantly lower than last year’s GUCCI which earned $13.9M for three days and $21.1M for five.
The third opening comparison is between horror titles, with MGM’s BONES AND ALL earning $2.2M for three days and $3.7M for five compared to last year’s RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACOON CITY with $5.3M for three days and $8.7M for five. A producer somewhere must have thought that the cannibalistic storyline of BONES AND ALL would be a perfect match for the #1 eating weekend of the year.
With this year’s new openers falling short by comparison in all three cases, exhibitors were left to wonder why studios allowed such a valuable weekend to languish. We expect that studios will see the opportunity, and take steps next year to open more crowd-pleasing movies during the holiday week.