‘Moana’ rides wave of family film success into potential blockbuster Thanksgiving weekend

Despite the up and down—and occasionally dismal—box-office performance for 2016 films, family and animated films have been nothing short of amazing.

Don’t expect that to change on the weekend after Thanksgiving, one of the biggest family-friendly periods at the box office, as Walt Disney Co.’s
 Animation Studios releases “Moana.” The animated filmis rooted in Polynesian myth and tells the story of Moana, who is destined to become the chief of her people but is drawn to the ocean despite her father’s warnings against exploring beyond the reef. It stars Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, with music from “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Four of the top 10 films of the year so far in domestic ticket sales are either family-oriented or animated features—“Finding Dory,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “The Jungle Book” and “Zootopia”—and three of those films are Disney properties. “Finding Dory” is the No. 1 film of the year with slightly more than a month to go.

Check out: Family-friendly films are dominating at the box office

“Families are always in need of content,” comScore media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

“Moana”—with a smattering of factors working in its favor—looks poised to benefit from that need with a successful box office draw on the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The film, stamped with a 99% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a reported $150 million production budget, brought in $2.6 million in early Tuesday night showings, and comScore forecasts the film will garner a debut in the $75 million to $80 million range. Dergarabedian believes it has the potential to do even more business.

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The Thanksgiving holiday should give newcomers and holdovers a boost at the box office. The closest competition for “Moana” is “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” in its second week from Time Warner Inc.-owned
 Warner Bros. Taking into account the film’s previous weekend draw, the typically drop in films’ second week and the boost from Thanksgiving, comScore predicts “Fantastic Beasts” could earn $50 million to $60 million.

This final push to the end of the year is essential for the box office and Hollywood as a whole after a disappointing summer.

“We had one of the worst reviewed crop of summer films, and after a promising first quarter,” Dergarabedian said. “The final stretch is essential and it’s going to be like a horse race. The industry needs to generate a lot of goodwill.”

The weekend offers a wide variety of films as the industry nears the 2016 home stretch, according to Dergarabedian. While family films have been in demand, there is also an array of dramatic movies and potential Oscar fare in theaters.

“Allied,” starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, is expected to pull in something close to $25 million for Viacom Inc.’s
 Paramount Pictures in its debut. The film, opening in 3,160 theaters, cost $85 million to produce.

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Also opening this weekend are R-rated comedy “Bad Santa 2” and Warren Beatty’s period romance comedy-drama “Rules Don’t Apply.”

Film Trailer: ‘Rules Don’t Apply’

“Bad Santa 2,” which brings back Billy Bob Thornton in the lead role, cost just $26 million to produce and is expected to finish the holiday weekend somewhere in the midteen millions. “Rules Don’t Apply” was written and directed by its star, Beatty, who appears alongside Lily Collins and future young Han Solo actor Alden Ehrenreich. The film carried a $25 million production budget. Set in 1950s Hollywood, it follows the romance between a young actress (Collins) and her driver (Ehrenreich), which is forbidden by their employer, Howard Hughes (Beatty).

“Rules Don’t Apply” is expected to earn about $8 million in its first five days.

The overall box office is up slightly more than 4% so far this year, but there are tough year-over-year comparisons in the final month, thanks mainly to last year’s performance of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/moana-rides-wave-of-family-film-success-into-potential-blockbuster-thanksgiving-weekend-2016-11-23

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