Thanksgiving brought both positive and sobering results for theaters, as well as a potential new concern with the Omicron variant
For theater owners and studio execs alike, the 2021 box office has been a true test of the film industry’s near-immovable optimism, and Thanksgiving weekend offered a mix of encouraging and sobering returns.
Disney’s animated family film “Encanto” and MGM’s biographical crime drama “House of Gucci” both set new post-shutdown standards for their respective genres, while Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is continuing the hot streak the studio has been on this fall. Despite those successes, there’s still a long way back to normal for the box office as overall numbers are over $100 million short of what was seen on Thanksgiving weekend in the 2010s.
Here are the five big takeaways from 2021’s Thanksgiving filled with hope and dread for Hollywood.
1. Overall Thanksgiving numbers are still down 46%
On the one hand, the estimated $142 million grossed over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend is a world away from the mere $21.3 million grossed last year, when the overwhelming majority of theaters were closed and the world was bracing for a winter in which COVID-19 infection rates would spike through the roof.
On the other hand, that $142 million total is 46% down from what was grossed in Thanksgiving 2019, when “Frozen II” pushed overall grosses to $262 million. The total is even down 37% from the $226 million grossed in 2014, one of the lowest-grossing Thanksgivings of the past decade.
Perhaps this weekend could have gotten closer to pre-pandemic levels if Paramount had not moved “Top Gun: Maverick” from a Nov. 19 release date to Memorial Day weekend next year. But as Laemmle Theaters president Greg Laemmle noted last week, a mix of COVID-19 concerns and families prioritizing in-person visits has knocked trips to the cinema down the list of things to do. And while that doesn’t put a dent in Hollywood’s hope that 2022 will see a return to normal, many are reassessing just how strong this holiday season’s box office will be.