Monday, November 28, 2016

"Moana" Tops the Box Office While Beatty Covers the Bottom

Scene from Moana
It is likely that if you had family, you spent a part of this past Thanksgiving weekend seeing Disney's latest film Moana. If you didn't, you should. It's one of the most fun films of the year. Along with anticipation comes box office glory. It shouldn't be a surprise that the South Pacific princess movie debuted at number one while earning $81.1 million in North American box office alone. It also makes it the second highest grossing film to play on Thanksgiving weekend, coming a little over $10 million shy of fellow Disney film Frozen. Since Moana opened on Wednesday, it actually has quite a few oddball records to account for, including helping to solidify Disney as possessing 90% of the top 10 slots for the best three-day and five-day openings. Also after the jump, a quick look at another Oscar contender who performed very poorly this past weekend.

It is likely that "How Far I'll Go" is stuck in your head by this point. As the film's call to action song, it ranks among the studio's very best. With great reviews and additional praise for depicting a non-white princess' story, it makes sense that the film was a massive success. But how big of a success was it? The answer is that it wasn't Disney's biggest hit, but it was no slouch. Nobody could've predicted the phenomenon of Frozen, which also became the highest grossing film by a female director. Even if Moana comes up a little short in the final grosses, it is likely to be another hit that will never escape the family film circuit.

The film lead a very encouraging box office weekend that saw the Top 12 earn a combined $173 million. Even then, Moana was the only major success story. On the flip side was the first directed film by icon Warren Beatty since 1998's Bulworth. Rules Don't Apply was a story of an elderly Howard Hughes (played by Beatty) who befriends a young actress and goes on madcap adventures. Along with the hype of another film from the meticulous filmmaker, the budget was set at $25 million. The film opened in 2,382 theaters and grossed a measly $1.57 million over the three day weekend. For a presumable swan song, it comes off as a bad omen that Beatty's film is number six on the all-time worst opening for films in 2000+ theaters. It is also the worst opening for 2016 following previous holder Morgan. Unless Beatty has great friends, it does seem like his latest has swiftly exited the Oscar conversation.

Moana may not have broken any major record, but proved its muster with significant placement on records all around, assuring everyone that Disney isn't going anywhere. For all-time opening, it was the second highest grossing film after the other 2016 film Zootopia. For three day openings on Thanksgiving weekend, it helped to push last year's Rocky sequel Creed out of the Top 10. It creates quite the dominance that will be difficult for anyone to come back from. 

The current Top 10 three day openings are:
1. Frozen ($67 million)
2. Toy Story 2 ($57 million)
3. Moana ($56 million)
4. Tangled ($48 million)
5. The Good Dinosaur ($39 million)
6. Enchanted ($34 million)
7. 101 Dalmatians 1996 ($33.5 million)
8. A Bug's Life ($33.2 million)
9. Four Christmases ($31 million)
10. Unbreakable ($30 million)

The list has an interesting variety that feature a lot of obvious contemporary favorites. Among the more surprising is The Good Dinosaur: a film that was considered to be the studio's first box office bomb. Likewise, A Bug's Life remains an outlier for the studio and is rarely discussed favorably. Beyond that, it seems especially odd that the M. Night Shyamalan film Unbreakable is on the list. Yes, it is released by a subsidiary of Disney so it counts. If nothing else, it counts as Disney's only non-animated or family friendly film to make this cut. With that said, Four Christmases better watch out. It doesn't seem likely that Reese Witherspoon's next few films will be changing this algorithm at all.

Of course, it's mostly beneficial to the fact that Thanksgiving is considered to be a time for family. As a result, anything tolerable is likely to do good business. Thankfully, Disney is usually always above tolerable. Moana is also one of their best in quite some time. They have nothing to worry about. Beatty on the other hand comes across as an unfortunate relic of the New Hollywood system of the 1970's. The reviews weren't favorable and the trailers didn't do the film justice. This weekend's report saw two opposing stories of two decades old giants. It was only hopeful that both of them would succeed.

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