Movie theaters and studios haven’t had a lot to be thankful for this fall.
Painful flops have outnumbered the hits, as “By the Sea,” “Our Brand Is Crisis,” “Burnt” and others have fallen victim to audience indifference. Even “Spectre,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” and other blockbusters have trailed previous entries in the franchises they represent, disappointing analysts who were expecting to receive a bigger bump from James Bond and Katniss.
The hope is that a box office that’s been huffing and wheezing will catch its breath and regroup heading into Thanksgiving. There’s certainly some promising offerings at the multiplexes, among them Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” which should attract family crowds and “Creed,” the “Rocky” spinoff that has sparked talk of an Oscar for Sylvester Stallone.
Thanksgiving tends to be one of the busiest times for movie-going, but last year’s holiday was lackluster, with “Penguins of Madagascar” and “Horrible Bosses 2” dying quick deaths at the ticket booths. The 2015 edition of “turkey day” seems healthier.
“The Good Dinosaur” seems best positioned to thrive in this climate, despite receiving reviews that are more lukewarm than the rapturous critical response that routinely greets the animation house’s films. The picture opens on Tuesday night, just in time to cash in on school holidays, and should bring in $60 million over its first five days. It will screen in more than 3,700 theaters, roughly 75% of which will offer 3D shows.
Disney, Pixar’s parent company, didn’t provide a budget, but their films usually cost between $175 million to $200 million. It marks the first time ever that Pixar has released two films in the same year. It scored a major hit last summer with “Inside Out.”
“The Good Dinosaur” may be able to secure a first place finish, but a lot depends on how “Mockingjay — Part 2” holds up in its sophomore weekend. The “Hunger Games” finale opened to $101 million, but that was a big drop over its predecessor, which kicked off to more than $121 million in 2014. “Mockingjay — Part 1” went on to make $82.7 million for the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, but part deux could have difficulty matching that figure given its weaker start.
Then there’s “Creed,” which was barely registering on tracking before reviews started leaking out and critics began losing their collective mind over a series that had swapped Ivan Drago for emotional pathos and reinvigorated itself in the process. The film reunites the “Fruitvale Station” team of Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler for the story of Apollo Creed’s son and his quest to prove himself in the ring. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Line produced the $37 million production, with Warner Bros. is distributing the film in more than 3,000 locations. Look for “Creed” to do $33 million over its first five days.
That leaves Fox’s “Victor Frankenstein” struggling to get noticed among the new wide releases. The $40 million horror film is looking at a five-day bow of $12 million when it debuts in 2,700 locations. Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy star in the monster movie revival, which has been moved around several times on the release schedule.
In the arthouse realm, the holiday period will host the four theater debut of “The Danish Girl,” Tom Hooper’s acclaimed look at a transgender artist (Eddie Redmayne) undergoing one of the first sex change operations. Focus Features is backing the film, which should factor into the Oscar race.