‘Napoleon’ Conquers ‘Wish’ With $3 Million at Tuesday Box Office

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Disney’s latest animated feature earned $2.3 million in pre-release preview grosses

Joaquin Phoenix in "Napoleon" (Photo by Apple TV+/Sony)

In the first round of this year’s Thanksgiving box office battle, the victor was not the Walt Disney Animation film “Wish,” but rather Sony’s R-rated “Napoleon.” However, both films opened with promising pre-release preview earnings, offering hope that both films will achieve measured victories no matter which one “wins” the Wednesday-Sunday weekend crown.

Sony’s “Napoleon” began with a boom, earning $3 million in Tuesday preview screenings. That’s higher than the $2 million earned by Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” in 2019 and the $1.4 million earned by Ryan Coogler’s “Creed” in 2015. Both of which went on to top $40 million in their respective Wed-Sun Thanksgiving weekend launches.

That certainly is good news for Ridley Scott’s Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby-starring war epic, even if Sony was merely projecting a $45 million worldwide launch. Like Martin Scorsese’s “Flowers of the Killer Moon,” “Napoleon” is a big-budget epic produced by Apple for their Apple TV+ streaming platform. Once again a legacy studio, in this case Sony, handled global theatrical distribution.

We’ll see if “Napoleon” legs out like “Creed II,” which earned $3.7 million in preview grosses on this pre-Thanksgiving Tuesday in 2018 before legging out to $56 million over the long holiday. That seems unlikely considering the fact that it’s a 2.5-hour, R-rated melodrama. A more “realistic” comparison might be “Flowers of the Killer Moon” which earned $23 million in its Fri-Sun launch from a $2.6 million preview gross, or “Don’t Worry Darling” which earned $19 million over its Fri-Sun debut from a $3.1 million Thursday gross. But that would be unnaturally frontloaded for a Thanksgiving release. Fingers crossed for now.


Walt Disney Animation’s “Wish,” an original musical fantasy implicitly meant to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary, began its domestic box office run on Tuesday with $2.3 million. That includes $550,000 earned via nationwide sneak previews held on Nov. 18.

That compares favorably with the $800,000 earned by “Strange World” in its pre-release preview grosses as well as the $1.5 million earned likewise by “Encanto” at the start of the 2021 Thanksgiving holiday frame. It’s actually in line with the likes of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” ($3.8 million in 2018), “Coco” ($2.3 million in 2017) and “Moana” ($2.6 million in 2016). Those films earned Wed-Sun debuts of, respectively, $84 million, $73 million and $82 million. “Encanto” disappointed — partially thanks to a much-publicized mere 31-day window between its opening day and its Disney+ premiere — two years ago with a $41 million Wed-Sun debut.

The hope is that “Wish” — which has earned the worst overall reviews for a major Walt Disney animated release since “Chicken Little” in 2005 — opens in line with the mid-2010s animated releases. However, pessimistically speaking, it may end up with a debut closer to “The Good Dinosaur” which earned $1.3 million in previews on the way to a $55.5 million Wed-Sun launch. That was quite disappointing at the time, Pixar’s first flop no less.

Ironically, after years of underwhelming launches for Walt Disney Animation films like “Strange World” (which earned just $19 million over the five-day holiday launch) and Pixar flicks like “Onward” (which debuted with $39 million in early 2020 just before COVID shut theaters down) and “Elemental” (which legged out past $150 million after a $29 million Fri-Sun launch this past June), a new Disney toon opening on par with “The Good Dinosaur” may be a measured win.

After all, non-sequel, original animated films have struggled at least since “Coco” broke out six years ago. Years of Pixar films being sent to Disney+ instead of theaters (and a general push toward emphasizing Disney+ from the company itself) means audiences may have to become reacclimated to seeing new Disney animated films as a theatrical destination. So, yes, in this ecosystem, an opening on par with “The Good Dinosaur” would be a measured win and an opening on par with “Tangled” ($67 million in 2010) would be a triumph. We’ll see.


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