May 18, 2024

There’s a good old fashioned box office battle brewing.

Disney’s “Wish,” an animated adventure that had been expected to dominate the Thanksgiving holiday is facing off against Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” for the top spot over the five-day stretch. And the dystopian prequel, which is currently in its second week of release, is showing impressive resilience against the family flick. Plus, Apple Original Productions’ “Napoleon” is out-pacing initial estimates and giving the other two, more commercially-oriented films a run for their money.

Well, that’s the good news. The bad is that neither “Wish” nor “Napoleon” are performing like Thanksgiving blockbusters of yore, with the Disney movie looking like another box office dud for a studio that had previously enjoyed an unprecedented record of success. “Wish” earned a disappointing $3.9 million over Thanksgiving, bringing its total to $12.2 million. It is projected to generate $35 million over the five-day period.

That probably won’t be enough to top the second week of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which picked up a leading $7.2 million on Thanksgiving to bring its domestic haul to $63.6 million. The “Hunger Games” prequel, set before the arrival of Katniss Everdeen on the scene, is projected to pull in $42 million over the five-day period. “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” cost $100 million to produce — a relative steal in this budget-busting era. In contrast, Disney spent $200 million to create “Wish,” so it needs the film to show some endurance if it expects to turn a profit. If “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” succeeds in deposing “Wish” for the box office throne, that will be a major upset. The one thing going for “Wish” is that recent animated films like Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental” have started slow and managed to stick around.

“Napoleon,” a lavish epic from Ridley Scott, a master of the genre whose previous films include “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven, also cost $200 million to bring to the screen (Waterloo does not come cheap). The film earned $4.4 million on Thanksgiving for a second place finish and is expected to gross $33 million over the five-day holiday period to end in third position. Globally, the film is projected to earn more than $70 million during the week. A conventional studio would be gnawing their fingernails over “Napoleon’s” financial results, but Apple with its nearly $3 trillion market cap isn’t overly concerned with making a profit on the movie. It’s releasing the film theatrically in order to generate excitement for its inevitable launch on Apple TV+, the tech giant’s Netflix challenger. Sony Pictures is distributing the film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a very moody military genius and Vanessa Kirby as the woman whose love inspires him to conquer much of Europe, millions of casualties be damned.

Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls Band Together” took fourth place, earning $2.6 million on Thanksgiving. The family film should earn $23.2 million over the five-day stretch, which would bring its domestic total to just over $62 million. TriStar Pictures and Spyglass Media’s “Thanksgiving,” a new holiday-themed gore fest from Eli Roth, picked up $2 million on Thanksgiving to bring its stateside total to $16.9 million. It is expected to make $10 million over the long holiday, which would leave it with a domestic gross of $23.1 million.

This Thanksgiving period is expected to result in ticket sales of $ million, the highest mark since Covid upended the movie business. It’s a far cry, however, from the high-water mark of $315.6 million that was set in 2018 when “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and “Creed II” attracted crowds.

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