Box Office: ‘Encanto’ Struggles With $11M Friday As ‘Licorice Pizza’ Soars

Walt Disney’s Encanto topped the Friday box office with $10.89 million. That’s an 87% jump from its $5.8 million Thursday gross, which is good but well below the previous Disney Thanksgiving openers over the last decade, such as Tangled (+142% for a $19.5 million Friday), Frozen (+143%/$27.6 million), The Good Dinosaur (+137%/$15.5 million), Moana (+120%/$21.8 million), Coco (+113%/$18.9 million) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (+113%/$21.7 million). The 60th (non-Pixar) Walt Disney animated feature is, rave reviews and an A from Cinemascore notwithstanding, frankly opening below par for a Turkey Day newbie. Moreover, the day-to-day legs are decent (-23% on Thanksgiving from a $7.5 million Wednesday was a solid hold), the grosses and Thursday-to-Friday jump aren’t implying that, as hoped, a slew of general moviegoers were just waiting until the Fri-Sun weekend to check it out.

Barring a rally, we’re likely looking at a Fri-Sun weekend debut of around $29 million, or essentially tied with the likes of Meet the Robinsons ($29 million in March 2007), Bolt ($26 million in mid-November 2008) and The Princess and the Frog ($24 million in mid-December 2009). The Wed-Sun launch of around $43 million is A) about half what has been par for the course for Disney since Frozen (and, adjusted for inflation, since Tangled’s $48 million Fri-Sun/$68 million Wed-Sun debut in 2010) and closer to the likes of DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians ($32 million Wed-Sun over Thanksgiving 2012) and Penguins of Madagascar ($35 million over Thanksgiving 2014) or even Disney’s modern classic The Muppets ($29 million/$42 million) exactly a decade ago. Encanto is a great movie, but these are not great numbers.

Blame a confluence of concurrent factors, including Covid-specific variables (especially with headlines about a new varient), the notion that the first theatrical-only Disney toon since Frozen II in late 2019 will arrive on Disney+ in just 31 days, on Christmas Eve and the pre-Covid challenges of getting folks to show up for a wholly original animated feature. Pixar’s Onward bombed just before Covid turned the world upside down, and it’s not like the likes of Paramount’s Amusement Park, DreamWorks’ (terrific) Abominable or Laika’s The Missing Link were setting the box office on fire prior to that. Yes it’s partially due to a surge of big sequels in 2018 and 2019, but the last blockbuster original toon remains Pixar’s Coco ($209 million domestic, $189 million in China and $800 million worldwide) exactly four years ago this weekend.

In better news, Paul Thomas Anderson’s delightful Licorice Pizza debuted in four locations yesterday, playing in single-theater 70mm film engagements to what can only be described as pre-Covid results. The acclaimed coming-of-age period piece, about a teenage entrepreneur (Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) who falls for and befriends a comparatively aimless 25-year old (Alana Haim), earned a smashing $141,000 yesterday, setting the stage for a $335,000 opening weekend. That’ll give the R-rated (but unexpectedly wholesome) dramedy a boffo $83,800 per-theater average. That’s the biggest per-theater gross since Adam Sander’s Uncut Gems grossed $537,242 in five theaters in December 2019. It’s well below the $147k per-theater debut (in five locations) of The Master in 2012 but better than the $31k per-theater four-theater launch (during a $527,840 seven-day debut) of The Phantom Thread in 2017.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the $40 million-budgeted Licorice Pizza, which has no star power (Bradley Cooper is but a cameo and I’m guessing Haim isn’t as big of a draw as Lady Gaga or Harry Styles), will become a full-on mainstream hit when it goes wide on Christmas. However, it’s a hell of a debut for what is essentially “Oh, it’s the latest Paul Anderson flick!” that would have impressed me even in non-Covid times. It’s nearly triple the likes of C’mon, C’mon and The French Dispatch in terms of per-theater averages. There’s been a lot of chatter about the apparent death of the platform release, partially due to the Arclight closures. However, studios might not want to give up on the idea, at least if they want at least one week of positive box office coverage.

The Tycoon Herald