There’s not a lot to be thankful for at the Thanksgiving box office. Disney’s “Strange World” failed to entice family audiences, collapsing in its debut with $11.9 million from 4,174 North American theaters over the weekend and $18.6 million over the five-day holiday frame. Heading into the weekend, the film was expected to earn $30 million to $40 million during the long weekend.
“Strange World” didn’t make up ground at the international box office, where it earned $9.2 million from 43 markets for a global start of $27.8 million.
That’s a catastrophic result for Disney, which has always been considered the gold standard in animation. But the studio has stumbled in pandemic times with “Lightyear,” one of the few Pixar films to lose money in its theatrical run, as well as “Encanto,” which didn’t become a viral TikTok sensation until the musical fable landed on Disney+.
The $180 million-budgeted “Strange World” is poised to be another money loser for Disney, unless business miraculously recovers in the next few weeks. But that’s not likely since the film, an animated adventure about a family of legendary explorers, has mediocre reviews, a tepid “B” CinemaScore and minimal buzz. If the movie replicates the sales of “Lightyear” (which fizzled with $226 million worldwide) and “Encanto” (which tapped out with $256 million worldwide), “Strange World” stands to lose at least $100 million in its theatrical run.
It may be ambitious to believe “Strange World” will reach the same heights as “Encanto,” which kicked off to $40.3 million in 2021 and managed to eventually near the $100 million mark in North America. And even those ticket sales were down dramatically from Disney’s past Thanksgiving releases, like 2019’s “Frozen II” ($123.7 million to start), 2018’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” ($84.6 million to start) and 2017’s “Coco” ($71 million to start).
Rival studios believe “Strange World” will be lucky to hit $45 million by the end of its domestic run. Furthermore, its overseas grosses may be limited. Disney opted to not submit the movie to several smaller markets, including the entire Middle East, Malaysia and Indonesia, because “Strange World” features a gay character. Films with LGBTQ references have been regularly targeted by censors in the Middle East, as well as China; Disney wasn’t willing to cut out parts of the movie to comply with those guidelines.
“This is a weak opening by Disney animation standards,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “At a cost of $180 million, plus marketing expenses, the film will finish in the red, even with good ancillary income.”
Overall, it’s been a bleak Turkey Day holiday at the box office with ticket sales capping off at just $125 million. Those figures mark a 10% decline from last Thanksgiving’s somewhat disappointing $142 million bounty, boosted by “Encanto” and “House of Gucci.” This year’s downward trend is particularly concerning because Thanksgiving, at least in the pre-pandemic era, used to consistently deliver strong box office results to the tune of at least $250 million over five days.
“Strange World” may not be getting a sequel or Disney+ spinoff series based on inaugural ticket sales, but there’s still some space for optimism at the Magic Kingdom. Disney and Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” towered over box office charts for the third weekend in a row, landing in first place ahead of newcomer “Strange World.” The superhero sequel brought in $45.9 million over the traditional weekend and $64 million over the five-day frame, boosting its domestic tally to $367 million. After three weeks of release, it’s already the fifth-highest grossing movie of the year in North America. Soon, it’ll be one of three films in 2022 to cross $400 million at the domestic box office. Globally, “Wakanda Forever” has amassed a mighty $675 million.
Other than “Wakanda Forever,” this year’s Thanksgiving offerings were forced to settle for scraps. In third place, “Devotion,” an inspirational drama starring Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell, landed the best start among newcomers with $6 million over the traditional weekend and $9 million since Wednesday. Still, that’s a tragic turnout because the film, from Sony and Black Label Media, carries a $90 million price tag.
Somehow, ticket sales for “Devotion” look like blockbuster figures compared to “The Fabelmans” and “Bones and All,” which majorly stumbled as they expanded their theater counts. “Bones and All,” an R-rated cannibal love story from director Luca Guadagnino and star Timothée Chalamet, took sixth place with $2.1 million from 2,727 theaters over the traditional weekend and a mediocre $3.4 million over the five-day frame.
At No. 7, Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical “The Fabelmans” finished the weekend with $2.2 million between Friday and Sunday from 638 cinemas and a lackluster $3.1 million since Wednesday. The movie, which looks to find itself in the Oscar race, is expected to expand its theater count in the coming weeks.
One positive aspect for studios like Universal, which is backing ‘The Fabelmans,” is the shorter theatrical window. By putting movies on demand within weeks of their theatrical debuts, film companies can efficiently capitalize on marketing campaigns, giving them a much-needed financial cushion.
Holdover titles “The Menu” and “Black Adam” rounded out the top five. In fourth place, Searchlight’s eat-the-rich satire “The Menu” added $5.2 million from 3,228 locations over the traditional weekend and $7.3 million over the five-day period. After two weeks in theaters, the horror comedy film — starring Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy — has earned $18.7 million in North America and $33.5 million globally.
“Black Adam,” a comic book adventure with Dwayne Johnson, brought in $3.35 million from 2,664 cinemas over the weekend and $4.5 million through the five-day frame. Those ticket sales bring the Warner Bros. film to $162 million at the domestic box office, a disappointing tally for a $195 million-budgeted film headlined by one of the biggest movie stars in the world.
The final order on domestic box office charts may have shaken out differently, had Netflix opted to report grosses for “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” Though the streamer is staying mum, sources speculate the well-reviewed whodunit scored with roughly $15 million during in its week-long run in roughly 600 cinemas.
The film’s big-screen rollout is notable because it’s the first Netflix movie to play in the country’s three biggest chains — AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark. And unlike most of the streamer’s theatrical releases, “Glass Onion” won’t be available on Netflix until later in December, roughly a month after its one-week sneak preview. It doesn’t take Daniel Craig’s quirky detective Benoit Blanc to conclude that the sequel to the 2019 theatrical winner “Knives Out” would have slayed on the big screen with a wider footprint and longer run in cinemas. Alas, its curiously short theatrical run is a mystery for another day.