Weekend estimates: Encanto leads modest Thanksgiving weekend – The Numbers

The first Thanksgiving with a full slate of new releases during the pandemic was full of uncertainty for theater owners. Family audiences have been returning to theaters but remain at about half their usual level, while the older crowd is mostly on the sidelines and at around 30% of its pre-pandemic size. A holiday weekend dominated by family fair like Encanto and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, with a side dish of the older-skewing House of Gucci is a welcome sight, but the big question was who would show. As it turns out, we’re looking at a modest weekend, with audiences hovering around their long term trend rather than rushing back to theaters.

Here’s how the weekend looks as of Sunday morning…

Weekend estimates

With very limited comparable data, our model only came up with a firm prediction for a single movie this weekend. Pre-pandemic, Encanto, it reckoned, would come in with around $53.5 million between Friday and Sunday, and $77.5 million from the full five-day holiday weekend. With 54% audience participation from family audiences, but a slightly higher-than-expected theater count, that should translate into $30.2 million from Friday to Sunday and $43.7 million from Wednesday to Sunday under current conditions. It’s pretty close to that figure, running 11% behind from Friday to Sunday and 8% behind the Wednesday-to-Sunday prediction. Given the uncertainty in the model, that’s just fine—very similar to Tangled’s first weekend over Thanksgiving 2010, after adjusting for current market conditions, in fact.

Tangled turned a $68.7-million Thanksgiving into just over $200 million at the box office, mainly thanks to a strong run into the New Year. Given its stellar reviews and high audience approval, that suggests Encanto should do about $120 million in the end, giving it a good shot at being the best-performing family film of the pandemic era to date. Jungle Cruise currently holds that title, with $117 million.

The returning films are also performing about 10% worse than might have been hoped for. Thanksgiving usually sees a 20%-or-so decline for returning films (see Thanksgiving, 2019 for example). The benchmark this year looks to be more like 30% to 40%, with Eternals falling only 29% and passing $150 million this weekend, but Ghostbusters: Afterlife tumbling 44% in its second weekend.

One very bright spot this weekend is the opening weekend of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. It will earn a projected $336,000 from only four theaters in just three days this weekend, giving it an outstanding $84,000 theater average. Clearly some people are willing to sit an a jam-packed movie theater, given the right film.

Overall though, this weekend tells the same story as most weekends during the pandemic recovery: audiences are coming back, but only slowly. The emergence of the Omicron variant over the past few days may cause a further softening in demand, one that even might show up in the weekend final numbers when they’re published tomorrow. The market could do with more good news if we’re going to have a better-than-expected Holiday Season. That ain’t it.

Weekend studio estimates

Bruce Nash,

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