There’s not a whole lot to be thankful for at this year’s Thanksgiving but at least audiences wanted a slice of Licorice Pizza, and Other Box Office News.
Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
Welp, it’s time to resurrect those old chestnuts again. The big qualifiers about pandemic-era performances and the ever-looming overarching question of whether or not we re-opened cinemas too early. Because it was Thanksgiving weekend, y’see. In the Before Times, this was a bountiful period where you’d see so many major tentpole films in their respective fields come together to deliver piles upon piles of cash money to their corporate masters in a truly heartwarming example of how ‘free market’ capitalism works. Disney animations would open alongside the year’s buzziest adult dramas, alongside a Limited Release indie which makes a killing, alongside the customary turkey we all politely ignore and leave to go stale in the corner of the kitchen until the smell gets too pungent. It was the perfect example of the movie industry’s insistence on making ALL of the money rather than just being content to make SOME of the money.
But, of course, that couldn’t happen this year. Not when we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic being managed… sub-par-ly. Not when this week’s targeted audiences of families with young children & older drama lovers remain the most at risk of infection and the most hesitant to return to the cinema outside of unavoidable event pictures with funny looking goobers in CGI’d spandex. Not when news has just broken of a new COVID variant doing the rounds you just know is not going to be effectively contained. When considering all of that, this Thanksgiving weekend’s results are arguably the best everyone involved could’ve realistically hoped for. But, of course, it’s not ALL of the money so expect to read a lot of doomsaying pieces from industry analysts and CEOs wiping away tears with $1000 bills.
So, then, to numbers. Disney’s brief time away from the #1 slot it demands by birth-right was swiftly ended by the arrival of Animated Classic #60 – their branding, not my editorialising; in no universe am I calling Chicken Little a classic anything – Encanto. Across the five-day holiday weekend, this minimally-advertised (at least to my eyes) yet lovely little animated feature turned in a respectable $40 million. Across the three-day which actually matters, however, it was only barely able to see off a returning Ghostbusters: Afterlife with $27 mil compared to the latter’s $24.5 mil. Meanwhile, the one true Movie Event of the Year, Lady Gaga Attempts to Enliven a Dull Piece of Oscar Bait with Her FABULOUS Italian Accent, comfortably snuck into third place with $14.2 mil for the three-day and $21.8 mil for the five-day. Fun fact: that five-day is more than double what Ridley Scott’s other film from this year, The Last Duel, made in its entire abortive theatrical run. Probably because House of Gucci wasn’t selling a miserably bleak drama about rape in medieval times. Or, y’know, millennials and cellphones. Both are equally likely candidates.
As for the customary turkey, that’d be the faithful attempt to reboot the theatrical Resident Evil series absolutely nobody asked for. In further evidence that Milla Jovovich is in actuality the part of Resi with the most drawing power, rather than Claire Redfield or the prospect of them eventuality having to turn Chris Redfield punching a boulder into live-action, Welcome to Racoon City delivered a franchise-worst opening of $5.2 mil for the three-day and $8.8 mil for the five-day. But it’s not all despairing news! Paul Thomas Anderson is riding in on an Alana Haim-shaped horse to save us all with Licorice Pizza! And, it turns out, the return of the one true Paul Anderson is kind of a big deal for cinephiles usually too cautious about stepping into a potential infection hotbox! On just four screens and without taking advantage of two bonus Thanksgiving-aided days, Pizza earned $336,000 across the three-day for an astonishing $84,000 per-theatre average. It’s obviously the best PTA of the last two years, both the money and the film.
Mama mia! Ciao bella! You son-a of-a beetch-a! Full List, gabagool!
US Box Office Results: Friday 26th November 2021 – Sunday 28th November 2021
$27,000,000 / $40,300,000 / NEW
The most focussed, modest, and best film Disney have made since Moana. Doesn’t actively aim for transcendence at any point – it’s a very stripped-back, basic movie in narrative, sets, character work, etc. – but excels at those fundamentals to such a degree that said minimal ambition becomes a virtue. Really, really enjoyed it!
2] Ghostbusters: Afterlife
$24,500,000 / $87,758,129
A few months from now, once spoiler etiquette has lifted, we all need to have a serious conversation about the ethics of that thing in the climax because NO ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Other than that, this was just aggressively mediocre and the movie equivalent of a desperate snake eating its own tail for the pleasure of easily-amused masses who like feeling smart for recognising things from their childhood they are told were important.
3] House of Gucci
$14,231,000 / $21,832,755
You know that old saying “dress for the job you want?” Lady Gaga’s performance here was dressing for the perfectly campy, energised, vampy, yet emotionally true movie Ridley Scott insisted on playing as stuffily serious as possible. By contrast, Jared Leto’s performance was dressing to commit hate crimes against Italians, homosexuals, and his fellow actors. Kelechi Ehenulo has similar thoughts in a space capable of allowing for longer elucidation.
$7,900,000 / $150,643,809
First two Hawkeye eps were fun! I look forward to them refusing to meaningfully reckon with Clint’s time as The Ronin on a moral scale, inevitably frustrating me to no end since MCU heroes can apparently never be in the wrong at all! It’s a good thing they’ve got Hailee Steinfeld in the Movie Star role she was born for as the ultimate distraction tactic for that.
5] Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City
$5,275,000 / $8,800,000 / NEW
So, this was definitely supposed to be sold to Netflix, yeah? The complete lack of any marketing at all until six weeks ago. The non-existent press tour. Not even timing it for some kind of Resi game release to capitalise on sweet brand synergy. I would put money on Screen Gems having to tried to offload this to Netflix or Prime Video only to get rejected and forced to just let the mess escape in a sloppy ooze running down the trouser leg of cinemas that they’re hoping no-one will notice.
…hmm? No, this is totally appropriate content for lunchtime posting.
6] Clifford the Big Red Dog
$4,875,000 / $42,883,301
Aardman released a new short on Netflix last week! It’s called Robin Robin and is a really sweet Xmas-y little thing! Not that you need me to tell you this since it’s Aardman, but you should check it out! And if you’re still undecided, it’s got Gillian Anderson as a cat. More things should have Gillian Anderson playing a cat.
7] King Richard
$3,300,000 / $11,378,000
I would not want to be the person with the job of deciding which out of Aunjane Ellis, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton gets the Best Supporting Actress nom.
8] Dune: Part One
$2,165,000 / $102,242,000
Break out the party balloons, men and (Cheryl)! We broke $100 mil domestic! Completely unsurprisingly, that also makes Dune Begins the highest-grossing Denis Villeneuve film yet domestically. So glad he’s getting to do his thing and be monetarily rewarded for it. I’d honestly even trust him to have made Ghostbusters: Afterlife passable, at this point.
9] No Time to Die
$1,753,000 / $158,128,117
Following on from festive Aardman a few entries back, it turns out that the heavily-pushed “Sky Original” A Boy Called Christmas is… actually good?! I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. Paul Regan has the rundown.
But whilst I’m here, allow me to vent about the fact that A Boy Called Christmas is NOT a “Sky Original!” None of their alleged “Originals” are Originals! Sky didn’t have shit to do with them! This one is a Studio Canal production they sold to Sky as a pre-emptive measure in case the film bombed theatrically, just like they did with Gunpowder Milkshake and Blithe Spirit and The Secret Garden! Focus Features did the same thing with Promising Young Woman cos the lockdowns seemed neverending and they wanted to recoup their losses! So did Lionsgate with Antebellum! The Comeback Trail had been aimlessly floating around unreleased for years; I was getting press emails about it in late 2019! Don’t believe what Idris Elba says in those ads! They didn’t do shit! So, they can get those STUPID UGLY “SKY ORIGINAL” LOGOS OFF THE GODDAMNED DVD CASES!
10] Venom: Let There Be Carnage
$1,565,000 / $209,515,986
Please stop threatening to put Tom Hardy’s Venom in the MCU. This is emotional terrorism, Sony.
Dropped out: The French Dispatch, Belfast, Ron’s Gone Wrong
Callie Petch is gonna marry the night.