Disney’s 'Wish’ tops Thanksgiving box office

Hollywood may not be feeling it this Thanksgiving.

The holiday season is traditionally a busy time for movie-going, but audiences aren’t as strong on Turkey Day, leaving the box office suffering from an excess of tryptophan. In the wake of this stupor, Disney’s “Wish” earned a lackluster $8.3 million on Wednesday. The animated film, which tells the origin story of Aasa Nakshatra, who has featured prominently in other Disney adventures, cost a whopping $200 million to make. It’s expected to gross more than $37 million in five days, a disappointing figure for its cost and another sign that the studio is in a creative and commercial bind. Once a Teflon brand, Disney has struggled to maintain its fan base with both its animation business and its Marvel division.

Apple Original Productions’ $200 million Ridley Scott epic „Napoleon” finished second with $7.7 million on Wednesday. It is expected to gross more than $30 million in five days. Internationally, „Napoleon” should gross around $65 million. On the one hand, that’s a solid number considering the film is over two hours long and has an R rating, but the budget is eye-popping.

It’s a sign of where things could be headed in the movie business, which is still struggling to adjust its business models to the streaming era. For a traditional movie studio — one interested in profits and losses — such a decision could be worrisome, foreshadowing a lot of red ink to be mopped up. But Apple, with its nearly $3 trillion market cap, prefers to view these expenses as marketing expenses. It wants to build buzz for its streaming service Apple TV+. The industry chose to look at the financial results of Martin Scorsese’s „Killers of the Flower Moon,” which Apple spent $200 million on. It’s unclear whether Tim Cook and team will see this as a successful strategy, but exhibitors are certainly happy to subsidize their industry as they see Apple raise the profiles of the films it releases. Joaquin Phoenix played the French dictator in Scott’s historical drama, which received mixed reviews from critics.

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In third place, Lionsgate’s „The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” earned $7.3, bringing its domestic total to approximately $63.6 million. Return to Panem is not as profitable as the original series. Still, Pioneer is expected to finish the five-day stretch with $40 million. Unlike its pricier competition, „The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” cost $100 million to make — a relatively frugal budget for a blockbuster hopeful. As it stands, „The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” has a strong chance of overtaking „Wish” as the week’s top grosser over the five-day holiday. That would be a big upset. Even if it falls short, „The Hunger Games” front should end the week with nearly $100 million at the domestic box office.

Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s „Trolls Band Together” finished fourth with $5.1 million. It is expected to earn $27 million in five days, taking its total to $66 million. It placed TriStar and Spyglass Media’s „Thank You” at number five. The holiday-themed horror film grossed $1.8 million on Wednesday and is expected to collect $10.1 million over five days, bringing its domestic total to $23.2 million.

„The Marvels,” the latest comic book adventure in the MCU, earned $1.5 million on Wednesday. It’s a disastrous result for Marvel, bringing its stateside total to a less than heroic $69.1 million.

This Thanksgiving holiday is expected to bring in nearly $190 million over the past two post-pandemic editions. That would be on top of the 2021 five-day tour, which reached $142.7 million, and the 2022 edition, which reached $142.7 million. Even if it beats that number, the 2023 Thanksgiving season will result in far less gravy than either 2019, where the gross was $263.4 million, or the 2018 extravaganza, which reached a record $315.6 million.

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Clearly, there is much more ground to cover.

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