Creed and Dinosaur Strong at Thanksgiving Box Office
By John Hamann
November 29, 2015
Thanksgiving at the box office is not about the size of the bird. It’s all about the drumsticks.
Thanksgiving is the oddest holiday weekend at the box office. Movies released over the holiday week fail more often than they succeed, and the weekend has never had a $70 million plus opener. In fact, there has been only one $60 million plus opener. Four films from the 1990s continue to litter the top 10 biggest Thanksgiving weekend openers, proving this can be a tough weekend to open a movie.
Since the millennium turned, 33 films have opened over Thanksgiving weekend, and 13 of those films opened to less than $14 million – some of them much, much less. A year ago, Penguins of Madagascar opened to $25 million, but Horrible Bosses 2 flopped with $15.5 million. In 2013, none of three openers earned more than $7 million. 2012's Rise of the Guardians opened to only $23 million despite good reviews and a $145 million budget, while Red Dawn flopped during the same frame. Similar to Rise of the Guardians, Arthur Christmas imploded in 2011 with $12 million, and in 2010, Burlesque, Love and Other Drugs and Faster all went to seed, earning between $8.5 and $12 million. Big films, built-in audience films, kids movies – nothing is truly protected over Thanksgiving weekend, and the winners are never huge.
This weekend, debuting films have significant built-in audiences, but none are really true sequels. Openers include Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, with the studio trying to repeat the success they had with Inside Out. This time, they appear to be aiming for an even younger audience, as this one does not have the same inspired premise as the summer release that picked up $358 million domestic. Also opening is Creed, the latest movie in the Rocky universe. This time around, Rocky is the supporting character, and it asks whether audiences will still respond following 2006’s resurgent Rocky Balboa. The Rocky films have never opened to more than $20 million, but have always had legs, making this is a solid choice for a Thanksgiving turn. Lastly, Victor Frankenstein opened, and it is the true turkey of the holiday weekend.
The top of the weekend box office is the same as it has been over the last several years, with a blockbuster holdover on top, this year in the form of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. After opening almost $20 million below that of Mockingjay Part 1, Katniss and friends were looking for a bounce back weekend over turkey frame, and in some ways they got it. Even so, it continues to trail its predecessor. The weekend really started on Wednesday, with Mockingjay Part 2 earning $13.8 million, which was less than a million away from the $14.6 million that Part 1 earned on the same day. Thursday was $10.4 million for Part 2, versus the $11.1 million Part 1 earned. Black Friday is the key to the weekend, as it is one of the biggest moviegoing days of the year. Part 2 earned $21.3 million, still off the $24.2 million that Part 1 earned, and a massive $10 million away from what Catching Fire earned on Black Friday in 2013.