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In addition to the food, the football and the shopping that comes with the holiday, Thanksgiving is also a huge time for moviegoing as families take a break from the retail rush to check out the latest blockbusters and prestige pics. This year was no different, with a host of compelling offerings at the local multiplex, from a massive animated sequel, to an overperforming murder mystery. Yet, despite Frozen II and Knives Out, the Thanksgiving box office was actually down this year.
Over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend from Wednesday to Sunday, domestic theaters in the U.S. and Canada sold approximately $264 million worth of movie tickets. While that number might seem large, it actually represents a 16% decline from the same frame in 2018 according to Comscore (via The New York Times). So what happened?
One possible culprit that robbed from the box office’s bounty over Thanksgiving was one entirely outside of Hollywood’s control: the weather. Bad weather in parts of the country may have kept some would-be moviegoers home where they have no shortage of entertainment options. In fact, those wanting to see a buzzy new movie may have opted to stay home regardless of the weather to catch a new release that for the most part is not theatrical.
I’m talking about Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which has been lauded as a masterpiece critically, but has proven divisive since it dropped on Netflix. Reception aside though, it’s entirely possible that some moviegoers chose to stay home and watch the three-and-a-half-hour crime epic over the movies playing at the theater. However, although the box office was down overall, it wasn’t for lack of some truly admirable performers.
Following its huge $130.2 million opening weekend, Disney’s long-awaited animated sequel Frozen II made a stellar $123.7 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame, basically doubling its domestic haul. Frozen II set a Thanksgiving record, besting The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s $109.9 million, even when accounting for inflation.
While living up to lofty commercial expectations is to be lauded, the real surprise over the Thanksgiving weekend was Rian Johnson’s Knives Out. Going into the weekend, the whodunit was tracking to open between $25 million and $30 million and wound up with $41.7 million over the long weekend. But two box office successes were not enough to surpass last year, it has to be a group effort.
Coming in third over the Thanksgiving weekend was the crowd-pleaser Ford v Ferrari, which made around $19 million, followed by A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with $17.3 million and Queen & Slim with $15.8 million. While that is a solid slate of well-reviewed movies, many of which may find themselves in the conversation come awards time, you’ll also notice that the they are all adult-skewing or outright R-rated movies.
Now contrast this with the Thanksgiving offerings in 2018. Disney’s Ralph Breaks wasn’t nearly as huge as Frozen II, but it still made $84.7 million over five days according to Box Office Mojo. In second place was another franchise film, Creed II, which took in $56 million. Coming in third was Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald with $42.3 million, followed by Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch and Bohemian Rhapsody, which made $42 million and $19.5 million respectively.
Basically, while this Thanksgiving corridor had some truly phenomenal films and one really, really big one, last year had more titles in big name, four-quadrant franchises that the whole family could see and combined with other factors, that could account for the box office drop year over year.
If you didn’t venture out over Thanksgiving, there are plenty of reasons to go to the theater as the year comes to a close. Check out what’s headed to theaters next year in our 2020 Release Schedule.