November 2023 box office preview: Holiday season kicks off with ‘The Marvels,’ ‘The Hunger Games,’ more

There are just two more months to 2023, but November is important, since it’s the start of the holiday season with studios releasing big sequels and prequels, awards movies, and others that might stick around through the New Year. Read on for Gold Derby’s November 2023 box office preview.

“The Marvels” (Marvel/Disney – Nov. 10)

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Normally, a new film from Marvel Studios would be a no-brainer to win the month, but audiences seem to be losing interest in superhero movies. Oscar winner Brie Larson returns as Carol Danvers in this direct sequel to the 2019 “Captain Marvel” movie that opened with $153.4 million and made $426 million just in North America. With that kind of showing, you’d expect a lot of anticipation its sequel, especially with the return of Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury, and the addition of Iman Vellani, as the popular Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel. Helmed by Nia DaCosta (“Candyman”), “The Marvels” should have everything going for it, including an appeal to women of color, but early ticket sales have it only tracking to open in the $60 to $70 million range, which is pretty shocking.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” (Lionsgate – Nov. 17)

The hugely successful franchise based on Suzanne Collins‘ books grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide across four movies, helping to turn Jennifer Lawrence into an A-list star. Other than director Francis Lawrence (no relation), no one else is back from those movies for this prequel which takes place decades earlier. Rachel Zegler stars as Lucy Gray Baird, an earlier District 12 tribute before Katniss Everdeen, with Tom Blyth as the young Coriolanus Snow, who would eventually become President, as played by Donald Sutherland in the other movies. The original movies generally opened with $100 million or more, but this one’s looking more likely to open in the $50 to 60 million range based on early ticket sales. That could change if the SAG strike ends soon, and Zegler can get out on the talk show rounds.

trolls band together
trolls band together

“Trolls Band Together” (Universal – Nov. 17)

The 2016 DreamWorks Animation movie “Trolls” was a pretty decent hit, opening in early November with $46.6 million, but its 2020 sequel “Trolls World Tour” got hobbled by the pandemic, essentially being dumped to Peacock while still getting an international release. That brings us to the third movie, which will be the first major animated family film in a few months with popular troll characters voiced by Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick joined by new ones voiced by YouTuber Troye Sivan, Eric André, Daveed Diggs and Kid Cudi. This has been a solid franchise for DWA thanks to its combination of music and family-friendly humor. Despite opening against the “Hunger Games” prequel, it should be able to open with upwards of $35 million or more.

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“Wish” (Disney – Nov. 22)

Less than a week after the newest “Trolls” movie, Walt Disney Animation releases its own latest animated movie, this one following a girl named Asha (voiced by Oscar winner Ariana DeBose from “West Side Story”), who wishes upon a star, that troublemaking star (voiced by Evan Peters) coming down to earth to join her. Also featuring the voices of Chris Pine, Disney regular Alan Tudyk and Ramy Youssef, “Wish” has many elements that have done well for Disney, such a singing princess in a fantasy setting. The last of these to do well was “Encanto,” which opened on this weekend two years ago with $40.6 million over the five-day Thanksgiving week, but that was still during pandemic times. If any of the songs for “Wish” catch on, this could do even better, but probably around $35 million over the three-day post-Thanksgiving weekend.

“Napoleon” (Apple/Sony – Nov. 22)

Filmmaker Sir Ridley Scott reunites with his Oscar-winning “Gladiator” star Joaquin Phoenix for this big-screen portrayal of Napoleon Bonaparte, the notorious French general and emperor with Vanessa Kirby playing his Empress Josephine, and co-starring Ludivine Sagnier and Rupert Everett. Thanksgiving weekend is rarely a great time for an older male-targeted movie like this – movies like Oliver Stone‘s similar war epic “Alexander” haven’t done well – but with so much fare geared towards women and teens in theaters, this might be just what is needed to appeal to guys looking for other options. This will be the second Apple movie to receive an IMAX release as well, which will probably be the preferred method of seeing it, and that could help it rack up a five-day opening in the $25 to 30 million range.

“Thanksgiving” (Sony – Nov. 17)

Sixteen years ago, filmmaker Eli Roth directed a fake trailer for this then-fake horror movie as part of the Quentin TarantinoRobert Rodriguez “Grindhouse” anthology, but it’s now become a reality. Although this is a rare horror release for November, and some moviegoers may be horror-ed out from September and October, the timeliness of this one should help it achieve an opening in the $11 to 15 million range.

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“Next Goal Wins” (Searchlight – Nov. 17)

Filmmaker Taika Waititi returns with this real-life feel-good sports story of a football (soccer) coach, played by Michael Fassbender, assigned to train the hopeless American Samoan team, who were beaten 31 to nil at a 2001 FIFA qualifying match. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and was received well, though it doesn’t look likely to follow Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” to the Oscars. It probably will open in the $5 to 8 million range.

“Journey to Bethlehem” (Sony/Affirm Films – Nov. 10)

With so much variety of films this month, the only thing that might count as counter-programming is a biblical Christmas musical? Directed by Adam Anders, this is trying to get an early jump on the holiday season, though there are plenty of other options, which might keep this from making more than $5 or 6 million its opening weekend.

“Tiger 3” (Yash Raj Films – Nov. 12)

Getting a rare Sunday release to coincide with the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, this new action three-quel starring Bollywood mega-star Salman Khan as his spy character introduced in 2012’s “Ek Tha Tiger” (who made a cameo as this character in Pathaan earlier this year). We’re seeing a growing interest in Bollywood and Telugu-language films thanks to last year’s “RRR,” and “Tiger 3” will be sneaking into IMAX theaters

“Saltburn” (MGM – Nov. 17 limited, Nov. 22 wide)

“Promising Young Woman” filmmaker Emerald Fennell‘s second feature stars Barry Keoghan as Oliver, a low-income Oxford student who befriends the wealthy and popular Felix, played by Jacob Elordi (who also plays Elvis in Sofia Coppola‘s “Priscilla” this month) Oliver is invited to spend the summer at Felix’s family mansion in Saltburn where he encounters his extremely eclectic family, as played by Richard E. Grant, Rosamund Pike, Archie Madekwe and Carey Mulligan.

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“The Holdovers” (Focus Features – Nov. 10)

Already playing in limited release is the latest movie from Alexander Payne, reuniting him with his “Sideways” star Paul Giamatti, playing a crotchety private school professor forced to watch over a troublesome student (Dominic Sessa) over the holiday break. Also starring Da’vine Joy Randolph (“My Name is Dolemite”), this is expected to be a big awards player, but it might have to start slower once it goes nationwide and then find its audience over Thanksgiving.

Three wide or semi-wide releases that open Friday and will be covered in Wednesday’s weekend preview include Sofia Coppola‘s “Priscilla,” starring Cailee Spaeney and Jacob Elordi as Priscilla and Elvis Presley; Christopher Zalla‘s “Radical,” starring Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez (“CODA”); and “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” starring Daisy Ridley.

Next, we have a few limited releases, a few that may end up going wider.

“Dream Scenario” (A24 – Nov. 10)

Nicolas Cage stars in Kristoffer Borgli‘s dark satire, playing a science teacher who begins to appear in random people’s dreams, leading him to quick fame that turns into something much darker.

“It’s a Wonderful Knife” (RLJEfilms – Nov. 10)

Tyler MacIntyre‘s horror-comedy stars Jane Widdop as Winnie Caruthers, who saves her town from a killer but ends up in a parallel universe. It also stars Joel McHale and Justin Long.

“Fallen Leaves” (MUBI  – Nov. 17)

Finland’s Oscar selection is once again the new movie from Aki Kaurismäki, who was previously nominated in 2002 with “The Man Without a Past.” This one is a love story involving two lonely people living in Helsinki trying to connect with each other.

“Monster” (Well GO USA –  Nov. 22)

The latest from Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters”) won two awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, starring Sakura Ando as a mother who confronts a teacher who has prompted her son to act strangely.

Netflix is going to have a busy month with five movies getting released into select theaters ahead of hitting the streamer later.

“Rustin” (Netflix – Nov. 3)

Director George C. Wolfe (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) returns with this portrait of Bayard Rustin, the openly gay civil rights activist who helped arrange the pivotal 1963 march on Washington DC, as played by Colman Domingo,

“May December” (Netflix – Nov. 17)

Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton star in this drama from Todd Haynes in which Moore plays a teacher who decades earlier had an affair with her 13-year-old student, and whom Portman’s actor is playing in a biopic.

“Maestro” (Netflix  – Nov. 22)

Bradley Cooper co-wrote, produced, directed and stars in this biopic about Leonard Bernstein, in which Carey Mulligan stars as his beleaguered wife, Felicia. This looks like it could be a big Oscar player this year.

“Leave the World Behind” (Netflix – Nov. 22)

“Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail directs this apocalyptic drama, starring Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali and Myha’la (“Industry”), which just debuted at the AFI Fest.

“Society of the Snow” (Netflix – Nov. 22)

J.A. Bayona (“Jurassic World: Dominion”) directs this Spanish-language drama about the 1972 plane crash that stranded an Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes

That’s it for this month. Remember to check back every Wednesday morning for a preview of the upcoming weekend with more details on upcoming releases’ box office potential.

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