While the Thanksgiving box office didn’t deliver the typically strong results that the movie theater industry has come to expect in the last decade, ticket sales for new titles fueled confidence that a recovery is well underway.
Over the five-day holiday weekend, moviegoers in the U.S. and Canada spent around $142 million on tickets for movies like “Encanto,” “House of Gucci” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” according to data from Comscore.
The haul is not as robust as previous years, where ticket sales often topped $250 million, but it showcases consumer confidence in returning to cinemas amidst the pandemic.
“This weekend again showed how the box office continues to take baby steps in the long-term pandemic rebound,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Many consumers remain cautious, especially with new Covid variants making headlines.”
Topping the box office was Disney’s “Encanto,” which tallied an estimated $40.3 million between Wednesday and Sunday. While this figure is much smaller than the recent Thanksgiving releases by Disney, including “Frozen II,” which garnered $130 million during the five-day frame, it’s a positive side for the movie industry that families are feeling more comfortable returning to cinemas.
Family-friendly films, especially animated films, have largely underperformed during the pandemic, as parents have kept their unvaccinated kids at home. With vaccination rates on the rise and the recent approval of a vaccine for kids aged five to 11, there is hope that the box office will see significant improvements in the coming months.
“House of Gucci,” distributed by MGM and Universal, snared an estimated $21.2 million domestically during the long weekend. Aimed at older viewers, some box office analysts worried that the film would not generate significant gains over the Thanksgiving period. During the pandemic, older audiences have been the slowest to return to cinemas and their absence has been felt for titles like “No Time to Die” and “The Last Duel.”
“‘Encanto’ and ‘House of Gucci’ each made considerable strides toward bringing back families and adult moviegoers, respectively, without the draw of a franchise title,” said Robbins. “‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ also began to show its potential for staying power through the holiday season.”
Released a week before Thanksgiving, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” added an estimated $35.2 million to its domestic tally. The film is expected to near $90 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada for its first two weeks in theaters.
“In any given year, the Thanksgiving frame is a barometer to measure how the final weeks of the box-office will play out,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “The industry should be very encouraged by the strong support of consumers of the big screen experience heading further into the holidays and into 2022.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.