The 2016 Thanksgiving holiday box office was a tale of feast or famine.
In another huge win for animated films — and Disney — Moana scored one of the best five-day Thanksgiving showings of all time with $81.1 million from 3,875 theaters, enough to conquer holdover Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which placed No. 2 with $66 million from 4,144 theaters.
If that estimate holds when final weekend numbers are tallied on Monday morning, Moana will boast the No. 2 Thanksgiving launch of all time after fellow Disney title Frozen ($93.6 million), not accounting for inflation. (Currently, Toy Story 2 is No. 2 with $80.1 million).
Moana has everything going for it: glowing reviews, an A CinemaScore, Dwayne Johnson, who voices a demigod enlisted by a fierce young Polynesian princess, and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the music with Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancin
At the other end of the spectrum, Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply bombed with a five-day gross of $2.2 million from 2,382 theaters, one of the worst debuts of all time for a film going out in more than 2,000 theaters. New Regency backed the $25 million-plus film, which couldn’t crack the top 10.
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 in the film, which earned a B+ CinemaScore.
Broad Green and Miramax’s raunchy black comedy Bad Santa 2 also made a poor showing. The $26 million film — once again starring Billy Bob Thornton as the ultimate anti-holiday hero, Willie Soke — hoped to debut in the mid-teen millions, but instead posted a five-day opening of $9 million to place No. 7.
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. The pic has been snubbed by both critics and moviegoers, who gave it a C+ CinemaScore.
Robert Zemeckis’ World War II spy thriller Allied fared the best after Moana, but even it disappointed after failing to win over many critics and earning a B CinemaScore. The Paramount film, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, opened to a $18 million from 3,160 theaters for the five days. Allied, costing $85 million to make, placed No. 4.
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. Overseas, the movie debuted to a $9.4 million from its first 23 markets representing 34 percent of the marketplace, including a $2.8 million launch in the U.K.
The specialty box office saw a flurry of activity as awards contenders either launched or expanded. Among new openers, The Weinstein Co. and See-Saw’s Lion debuted in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, grossing $128,368 for a pleasing location average of $32,092.
Manchester By the Sea, from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions, expanded successfully in its second weekend, earning $1.3 million from 48 theaters for a location average of $26,048.