Animated family film Moana is prospering in its Wednesday box-office launch for a likely first-place Thanksgiving holiday finish ahead of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Harry Potter spinoff from Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling that debuted last weekend.
Moana is projected to earn roughly $13 million to $14 million on Wednesday from 3,875 theaters, including a record $2.6 million from Tuesday-night previews. Fantastic Beasts - which already has amassed $252 million at the global box office - is tipped to earn an estimated $10 million to $12 million from 4,144 locations, according to early returns.
At this pace, Moana, the latest offering from Disney Animation Studios, could score a five-day opening of $75 million or more, and possibly north of $80 million, while Fantastic Beasts is predicted to earn $62 million to $65 million. Box-office experts stress, however, that these are very early estimates.
Newcomer Auli'i Cravalho voices the role of the movie title's heroine, Moana, a young princess living in ancient Polynesia who teams up with a demigod, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, in order to save her people. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music with Opetaia Foa'i and Mark Mancina.
Among the four new films opening nationwide over the long Thanksgiving corridor, it is looking like famine for Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply, which is projected to earn only $4.4 million from 2,382 runs for the five days. (On Tuesday night, the New Regency title pulled in a dismal $65,000 in previews from more than 1,100 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 $18 million to $20 million from 3,160 theaters. 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.
Bad Santa 2, from Broad Green Pictures and Miramax, is projected to post a five-day debut of $9 million to $12 million from 2,920 theaters. Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested the R-rated black comedy - once again starring Billy Bob Thornton as the ultimate anti-holiday hero, Willie Soke - would open in the mid-teen millions. Mark S. Waters directed the sequel, which also stars Kathy Bates, Tony Cox and Brett Kelly. Bad Santa was a sleeper hit when it opened to $16 million over the long Thanksgiving corridor in 2003 and topped out at $60 million domestically.