It’s been a few years since the box office faced the current situation it is in heading into this Thanksgiving weekend. The movie market has a surefire moneymaker with “Frozen II” and a promising new release with Lionsgate’s “Knives Out,” but the flop-heavy slump in the early part of November is likely to weigh down the holiday weekend’s overall totals.
“I think we’re going to once again see some very top heavy charts,” comScore analyst Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap. “Last year we had a record Thanksgiving weekend with $315.5 million, and that wasn’t just because of ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ and ‘Creed II.’ There were films like ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ that had come out early in November and were still bringing in numbers.”
After the failure of films like “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “Doctor Sleep,” this Thanksgiving won’t have as many films to carry the load. It’s unlikely that this weekend will even come close to matching last year’s totals, with a more likely result being an overall 5-day total of around $230 million, which would be a five-year low.
“Frozen II,” of course, will be the No. 1 film with an estimated 5-day total of $70-80 million, pushing it past $200 million after two weekends in theaters and into the year’s top 10 chart. If the sequel overperforms and makes $85 million during the holiday, it would top the 5-day opening of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and “Moana,” two other Walt Disney Animation releases that came out on Thanksgiving, and sit just below the $93 million 5-day start of the original “Frozen.”
The No. 2 spot will go to “Knives Out,” Rian Johnson’s acclaimed murder mystery film. Tracking is projecting a $25 million 5-day start, but signs point to an opening north of $30 million. Fandango reported on Tuesday that pre-sales for “Knives Out” are outperforming those of “Baby Driver,” another well-reviewed original film that was released on a Wednesday and opened to $29 million in summer 2017.
“Knives Out” is a big title for Lionsgate, as it serves as one of the first major productions the studio has released since the arrival of new studio heads Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane last year. At CinemaCon, “Knives Out” was a major part of Lionsgate’s presentation, in which the new heads explained their plans to rebuild the struggling studio as a place “where artists thrive.”
Indeed, the artists involved in “Knives Out” have served as the main selling point in Lionsgate’s marketing. Rian Johnson has gone on a Tarantino-esque media blitz promoting the film since its premiere in Toronto, while trailers have skipped around spoiling the mystery movie’s secrets by prominently featuring Daniel Craig’s performance as a heavily-accented private eye and Chris Evans — in his first post-Marvel role — playing a smug trust fund kid who’s not afraid to tell his family to “eat s–t.”
At a time when fewer films are banking on star power to bring in audiences, “Knives Out” is taking an old-school marketing path similar to “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” leaning on a whip-smart premise and a stacked cast to pique moviegoer interest. If it pays off this weekend, the word of mouth could help the film thrive through the holiday season, even against the “Star Wars” franchise Johnson took a break from to write and direct this passion project.
“Knives Out” centers around the mysterious death of renowned mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) on the night of his 85th birthday. While police are ready to deem it a suicide, private investigator Benoit Blanc (Craig), finds reason to believe that someone in his family may be responsible. Evans, Ana De Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, and Jaeden Martell also star in the film, which has a reported $40 million budget and a strong 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Also opening this weekend is the Universal drama “Queen & Slim,” directed by Melina Matsoukas and written by Lena Waithe. Unlike “Frozen II” and “Knives Out,” this one is not a crowd pleaser, instead examining concepts of love, grief and injustice in modern Black America. While the film has earned critical acclaim since its AFI Fest premiere with a 91% Rotten Tomatoes score, its opening is expected to be more modest with a $10-12 5-day opening against a $20 million budget.
“Queen & Slim” follows a black couple (Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith) whose unexceptional blind date takes a tragic turn after a routine police stop escalates into violence. When the cop is killed in the altercation, the couple goes on the run, falling in love even as they become a national symbol of trauma and pain for millions of people. Bokeem Woodbine, Flea, Chloe Sevigny, and Sturgill Simpson also star.