Disney's homegrown animated family film Moana feasted at the Wednesday box office, opening to $15.7 million from 3,875 theaters as it sails toward a historic Thanksgiving holiday debut of $87 million to $91 million, according to early estimates.
And if traffic keeps beating expectations, Moana could ice-out fellow Disney title Frozen ($93.6 million) to score the top five-day Thanksgiving opening of all time. Otherwise, it will rank No. 2. Among all films, the top five-day Thanksgiving gross belongs to The Hunger Games - Catching Fire ($109.9 million), followed by Frozen.
Moana sports glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore. Newcomer Auli'i Cravalho voices the role of the titular heroine, a young princess living in ancient Polynesia who goes in search of a demigod (voiced by Dwayne Johnson). Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music with Opetaia Foa'i and Mark Mancina.
The contest between Moana and Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling opened last weekend, won't even be close. Fantastic Beasts - certainly no slouch - earned $11 million Wednesday from 4,144 theaters for a projected five-day gross of $60 million to $65 million. The movie passed the $100 million domestic mark on Wednesday and has amassed north of $250 million at the global box office.
Among the other new films opening nationwide over the Thanksgiving weekend, it is looking like famine for Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply, which is projected to earn only $2 million to $2.5 million from 2,382 runs for the five days after grossing a scant $315,000 on Wednesday from 2,382 theaters.
Rules Don't Apply is Beatty's ode to old Hollywood and tells the story of a young woman (Lily Collins) and man (Alden Ehrenreich) who work for Howard Hughes. In addition to directing, Beatty plays Hughes in his first feature role since 2001's Town & Country. Annette Bening, Beatty's wife, and Matthew Broderick also star.
Elsewhere, Robert Zemeckis' World War II spy thriller Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, appears headed for a five-day launch of $15 million to $18 million from 3,160 theaters after collecting an estimated $2.7 million on Wednesday. In the pic, Pitt plays a U.S. intelligence officer living in London who discovers that his French wife (Cotillard) may not be the kindred spy he thought she was. Allied is the first test of Pitt's star status following his divorce from Angelina Jolie.
Allied is coming in somewhat behind expectations, and Bad Santa 2 even more so. The black comedy - once again starring Billy Bob Thornton as the ultimate anti-holiday hero, Willie Soke - hoped to debut in the mid-teen millions, but may struggle to get to $10 million from 2,920 theaters after opening to roughly $1.6 million on Wednesday. Mark S. Waters directed the sequel, which also stars Kathy Bates, Tony Cox and Brett Kelly. Bad Santa was a sleeper hit when it bowed to $16 million over the long Thanksgiving corridor in 2003 and topped out at $60 million domestically.
Nov. 24, 7:30 a.m. Updated with Wednesday grosses and revised projections.