clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Winners and Losers at the Thanksgiving Weekend Box Office

There were some tough breaks for Robin Hood and J.K. Rowling, while—wait, really?—‘Venom’ continues to take over the world

Stills from ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet,’ ‘Creed II,’ ‘The Favourite,’ and ‘Robin Hood’ Walt Disney Pictures/MGM/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Lionsgate Films

So many studios release movies over the Thanksgiving weekend—frequently one of the busiest theater weekends of the year—because audiences are at their most vulnerable: visiting family, filled to the brim with turkey and pumpkin pie, and more than willing to duck into a multiplex once or twice over a four-day weekend, if only to avoid talking politics with that weird uncle, again.)

But releasing a film over Thanksgiving weekend doesn’t guarantee massive financial gains: The popular slot means there’s an abundance of new movies and, therefore, more competition. The potential to bomb at the box office—hello, Robin Hood!—is higher than usual and, depending on the expectations, quite catastrophic. With that in mind, let’s take stock of the winners and losers coming out of a busy and record-breaking Thanksgiving weekend—from the big-budget sequels to the indie darlings charting a course for Oscars glory.

Winner: Blockbuster Sequels

With a five-day domestic haul of $314 million, this was the largest Thanksgiving at the box office on record—and a large part of these record-breaking numbers can be attributed to the two sequels that topped the long weekend: Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet and MGM’s Creed II.

Appropriately, Ralph Breaks the Internet broke the box office, accounting for $84.5 million over five days, which makes it the second-highest five-day Thanksgiving opening of all time, just behind Frozen ($93.6 million). The Wreck-It Ralph sequel functions well as not just a crowd-pleasing kids movie, but a trenchant exploration of Being Online, in a way that is more nuanced than Ready Player One’s digital diaspora, and is sure to give parents a few new nightmares along with it. But with an A- rating from Cinemascore to go along with an overwhelming positive critical response, Ralph Breaks the Internet is well on its way to surpassing its predecessor, which made $471 million globally.

And while Ralph Breaks the Internet homed in on kids and their parents, Creed II accounted for the other important demographic: Michael B. Jordan stans. With a $55.8 million five-day debut, the eighth installment of the Rocky franchise had the largest Thanksgiving opening ever for a live-action film. Aside from being a giant Jordan thirst trap via several sweaty workout montages, Creed II had a built-in audience from the storied Rocky films, as well as fans of Ryan Coogler’s Creed, which arrived in 2015 as one of the most assured and compelling blockbusters of the 21st century. (It even got Sylvester Stallone a much-deserved Oscar nomination!) With the sequel already outperforming the first Creed film by $13 million in its opening weekend, a domestic total surpassing $100 million—Creed finished its run with just under $110 million domestically—is Creed II’s floor, rather than its ceiling.

Loser: Robin Hood

Lionsgate should’ve seen this coming. Based on the trailers, the latest iteration of the rogue Englishman of Sherwood Forest was eerily reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from last year, including but not limited to: frenetic editing, choppy action sequences, and dialogue that definitely doesn’t seem like it belongs in medieval England. Considering Ritchie’s King Arthur bombed—making just $148 million off a $175 million budget—a Ritchie-esque take on Robin Hood didn’t sound like a recipe for success.

Still, who could’ve imagined it’d be this bad? The new Robin Hood had a five-day take of just $14.2 million, off a reported budget of $100 million. And while King Arthur wasn’t anywhere near acclaimed—with a suboptimal Rotten Tomatoes score of 31 percent—this Robin Hood is somehow even worse, with a 13 percent “rotten” rating. When you’re out millions of dollars and the best thing critics can say about your movie is that it’d serve as a competent channel-flipping watch on TNT in a couple of years, it’s clear you’ve missed the mark.

Winner: Fox Searchlight’s Oscars Launch

While it opened in only four locations in New York and Los Angeles, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite is off to a promising start. The 18th-century period piece—featuring the star wattage of Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman as Queen Anne of Great Britain—nabbed $420,000 over three days. That $105,000-per-theater average is the best of the year so far, and the 24th-best per theater average opening of all time. (For reference: On this list, The Favourite sits behind all-time bangers like The Lion King.) The Favourite will open in 25 to 30 additional locations across the states this coming weekend—including in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.—as it makes its case in what’s becoming a crowded Oscars race.

For Fox Searchlight, The Favourite’s huge per-theater start is another feather in the indie studio’s cap, as it continues to prove that it can not only help movies gain Oscars buzz, but turn them into lucrative moneymakers relative to their (more modest) expectations. Consider last year’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water—which not only accounted for 20 total Oscar nominations altogether, but made $54 million and $63 million domestic, respectively.

It’s still far too early to tell how The Favourite will fare in the long run, but the movie could be another perfect match between buzzy subject matter and a studio that knows how to market it for the broadest possible appeal.

Loser: J.K. Rowling IP

While Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is already proving to be another bankable hit for Warner Bros., the Harry Potter franchise is trending in the wrong direction—at least domestically. The Crimes of Grindelwald had the lowest domestic opening of any Harry Potter film: Its $62.1 million in its first weekend was less than Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s $74 million, which was already off the pace of the original eight films of the franchise. As this weekend’s success of Creed II and Ralph Breaks the Internet shows, a good sequel should be making more money than its predecessor, not less.

So even though The Crimes of Grindelwald landed third over the Thanksgiving weekend, with an additional $42.9 million, the movie is more reliant on global sales, which already accounted for over $300 million, than ever before. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—the Transformers franchise, in particular, has subsisted on the global box office for years—but with three more Fantastic Beasts movies on the horizon, the franchise needs to course-correct the shrinking of its American audience.

At least The Crimes of Grindelwald saved its best material for Fantastic Beasts 3? Accio delayed gratification!

Winner: Wait … Venom?

Venom, the superhero flick for which Tom Hardy had to vehemently argue with the production crew to jump inside a lobster tank, continued to make money overseas this weekend. It has now made over $600 million globally, and, with a total of $822 million, it’s now the fifth-highest grossing movie of the year. It’s also officially made more money than Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman and four of the six Spider-Man movies.

It’s Venom’s world; we’re all just living in its symbiote slime.