Disney’s animated Polynesian adventure “Moana” led U.S. moviegoing on Thanksgiving Day with $9.9 million at 3,875 locations as it heads towards the $85 million to $90 million range during the five-day holiday break.
Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” finished a close second with $9.6 million at 4,144 sites on Thanksgiving, pushing the Harry Potter spinoff to $110 million in its first seven days.
But three other wide-release openers aimed at adults found only moderate traction on Thanksgiving with Brad Pitt’s “Allied” grossing $2.3 million, Billy Bob Thornton’s “Bad Santa 2” with $1.4 million and Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” nearly invisible with $285,000.
“Moana” has now taken in $25.6 million in its first two days. It’s on a similar pace to Disney’s “Frozen,” which had hit $26.5 million at the same point in 2013 on its way to a record $93.6 million for the five-day Thanksgiving opening.
Thanksgiving Day tends to be the slowest by far of the five days and the next day tends to be the heaviest day for moviegoing. “Frozen” scored its best single day on that Black Friday with $26.8 million.
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“Moana,” starring Dwayne Johnson as the voice of a Polynesian demigod named Maui, received an A Cinemascore from audiences and has a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Fantastic Beasts,” starring Eddie Redmayne, is on pace to take in around $65 million over the five days, which will push it to $155 million by the end of the weekend.
Disney-Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” brought in $2.5 million on Thursday and should finish the five days with around $20 million. The Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle has totaled $191.7 million in its first three weeks.
Paramount’s “Allied,” starring Pitt and Marion Cotillard as World War II spies, is heading for about $16 million at 3,160 screens over the Thanksgiving period. That’s around the same range as the studio’s Amy Adams sci-fier “Arrival,” which has now gone past $51 million in its first two weeks.
“Bad Santa 2,” released by Broad Green and Miramax, has grossed $2.9 million at 2,920 sites in its first two days and is headed for around $10 million for the five days. The original “Bad Santa” opened with $16.8 million in five days during the 2003 Thanksgiving break on its way to more than $60 million by the end of its run.
“Rules Don’t Apply,” which marks Beatty’s first directing gig since 1998’s “Bulworth,” has grossed a miniscule $600,000 at 2,382 locations in its first two days for Fox and will wind up the five days outside the top 10 with less than $3 million. Beatty portrays eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes in a comedy-drama set in 1958.
Overall business during the five days won’t eclipse the Thanksgiving record set in 2013, when “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Frozen” drove the box office to a massive $293.6 million. But thanks to “Moana” — which was projected prior to its release to gross about $70 million — the period may top last year’s $258 million, which was propelled by “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2,” “The Good Dinosaur” and “Creed,” according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore.
“Suddenly a 5-day frame that was destined to play second fiddle to last year’s $258 million now has a shot at exceeding that total and landing in the top echelon of all-time Thanksgiving holiday box office performances,” he added. “The over-performance of ‘Moana’ made all the difference and took this week from a box office footnote to one of the stronger such holidays for the industry.”