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This year’s Thanksgiving box office feast was devoid of blockbuster dishes in a sobering reminder that moviegoing has yet to return to normal levels. And that was before new COVID-19 variant omicron sparked concern across the globe.
Excluding 2020, combined domestic ticket sales for the holiday hit their lowest level in a quarter of a century. According to Comscore, revenue for the five-day, Wednesday-Sunday corridor came in at $142 million, compared to $263 million in 2019. “The box office recovery is very much a work in progress, even if it’s headed in the right direction,” says Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
Analysts and studio insiders attribute the subdued Thanksgiving parade to the lack of an all-audience Hollywood tentpole, as well as ongoing concerns over COVID. The next key box office test will be Spider-Man: Far From Home, which Sony unfurls in theaters on Dec. 17.
The biggest Thanksgiving victors were Sony’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Walt Disney Animation’s musical adventure Encanto, both of which succeeded in winning over families. And don’t discount the performance of Lady Gaga starrer House of Gucci, which scored the top opening of the pandemic era for an adult-skewing drama. Then there’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, which lit up the art house marquee with the best per-location average in more than two years.
Films that couldn’t find their seat at the Thanksgiving table included Warner Bros.’ high-profile, adult-skewing biopic King Richard, starring Will Smith, and Screen Gems’ reboot Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.
“If you had to describe a near best-case scenario for the Thanksgiving holiday in movie theaters a year after COVID all but made the holiday the lowest grossing of the modern era, then this year’s results should be viewed as a win for the industry, even if the 5-day gross is admittedly around $100 million less than is traditionally earned,” says Dergarabedian.
Below is a rundown of the Thanksgiving menu at the domestic box office.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Nov. 19)
Jason Reitman’s sequel to the 1984 original Ghostbusters opted to open the weekend before Thanksgiving on its way to grossing a pleasing $95.3 million in its first 10 days, including a $44 million debut.
Encanto (Nov. 24)
Walt Disney Animation’s original musical adventure topped the Thanksgiving domestic chart with a Wednesday-Sunday opening of $40.3 million, the best start of the pandemic era for an animated title.
House of Gucci (Nov. 24)
Directed by Ridley Scott, the MGM film scored a five-day opening of $21.8 million, including $14.2 million for Thanksgiving weekend, both record numbers for an adult drama in the pandemic era. Analysts say star Lady Gaga succeeded in luring younger adults. Nearly half of ticket buyers, or 45 percent, were between the ages of 18 and 34, while 34 percent were 45 and older.
Licorice Pizza (Nov. 26)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest opened to stellar numbers in exclusive 70mm runs in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The MGM and United Artists release posted a per-theater average of $84,000, by far the best average since the pandemic began.
King Richard (Nov. 19)
The Warner Bros. film — which is also playing on HBO Max — was hoping to rally over Thanksgiving weekend after opening to a disappointing $5.7 million the previous weekend. Instead, it fell to No. 7 in its sophomore outing for a 10-day domestic cume of $11.4 million. The adult drama and Oscar hopeful stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams. King Richard is also available on HBO Max.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (Nov. 24)
Screen Gems’ reboot posted a five-day domestic debut of $8.8 million to place No. 5. The action-horror pic is directed by Johannes Roberts and stars Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue and Neal McDonough.
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