Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

"Frozen II" broke a lot of November records last weekend with a stellar $130.3m opening. The animated juggernaut will dominate the long Thanksgiving weekend (hence the daily pricing once again) but a pair of newcomers will attempt to carve out some non-Elsa related business.

The most promising rookie this weekend is "Knives Out," an old school whodunit with some modern twists courtesy of writer-director Rian Johnson ("The Last Jedi"). The film tells the story of a private investigator who tries to solve the murder of a renowned mystery novelist. Naturally every member of the novelist's largely loathsome family is a suspect.

Johnson has put together a stacked ensemble that includes James Bond, Captain America, Laurie Strode, General Zod, Sonny Crockett, Hannah Baker and Yoda. But will star power and an old fashioned premise be enough to lure an audience? Based on the performance of "Murder on the Orient Express" two Novembers ago, I think "Knives Out" will pull in steady, but not spectacular business this weekend.

"Murder on the Orient Express," which was also a star-studded whodunit, had a $28.7m opening weekend on its way to a decent domestic tally of $102.8m. Most importantly it grossed $13.2m over Thanksgiving weekend, which was only a 5% decrease from its previous weekend (the best hold of any film in the top ten that weekend). And "Murder" did this with a big animated family movie in the marketplace ("Coco"). Reviews have been solid thus far (currently sporting a 95% on rotten tomatoes) and I expect word of mouth to be positive (I saw it with a crowd last weekend and it played very well).

I think "Knives Out" will end up right around $20m for the three day weekend which is decent if you're a Lionsgate shareholder, but it's not a great FML play at FB$269. But the beauty of Thanksgiving week is that FML players will have Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday numbers to determine if "Knives Out" is worth screening. Unless it establishes itself as the clear-cut number two behind "Frozen II" on Wednesday/Thursday, I'll likely seek better value elsewhere.

The only other new wide release this weekend is the crime drama "Queen & Slim." Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith star as pair having their first date. While on their way home they get into an incident with a police officer and Kaluuya's character shoots the police officer in self-defense. The two are then forced to go on the run together and they become semi-folk heroes through the media. Think of a modern day "Bonnie and Clyde."

The film was written by Lena Waithe and prolific music video director Melina Matsoukas makes her feature directorial debut. It has been getting awards buzz for months following the release of its first trailer. "Queen & Slim" appears to be an original, timely film from fresh voices….but I also think it's the wrong movie for Thanksgiving weekend.

I perused the past box office charts for the past ten Thanksgiving weekends and I can't find a promising comp for "Queen & Slim." Thanksgiving weekend is one of the heaviest movie-going windows of the year and is ruled by mainstream fare. It's been a good weekend for Disney, Pixar, Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games. But an R-rated romantic drama that touches on a number of controversial issues? Not so much.

Even last Thanksgiving, eventual best picture winner "Green Book" only grossed $5.5m in its first weekend of wide release. Also on that same weekend, "Widows" dipped 33% (the second biggest slide in the top ten that weekend). I think "Queen & Slim" will eventually find an audience and could very be a major awards contender. But I don't think it's going to be fast out of the gate this weekend. I think it's going to struggle to break the $10m mark for the 3-day weekend, which makes it too risky of a play at FB$119. Couldn't Universal have held off for another week? This weekend is going to be about Anna & Elsa, Ford & Ferrari, Mr. Rogers & Benoit Blanc, not "Queen & Slim."

For my FML lineup this weekend it's hard to make a case against "Frozen II" as an anchor. When the original "Frozen" was released over Thanksgiving weekend in 2013 its Friday and Saturday numbers were very close to one another and I see it playing out the same way. So I'm leaning towards a Cineplex of 2x "Frozen II," a screen of my bonus pick (see below) and a smattering of "Last Christmas."

And if you're unable to escape from your family at your local cinema this year or can't bear the thought of another terrible Detroit Lions game all is not lost. Starting this week there is 209 minutes of epic Martin Scorsese mob goodness ready for your streaming consumption in the form of "The Irishman." Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):

  1. Frozen II - Saturday (FB$355)
  2. Frozen II - Friday (FB$370)
  3. Frozen II - Sunday (FB$220)
  4. Knives Out (FB$269)
  5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (FB$131)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" (FB$131) It opened softer than I expected last weekend ($13.3m) but I expect it to hold up well over the long Thanksgiving break. It's audience skews old, which is a demographic that doesn't rush out on opening weekend but tends to get out over Thanksgiving weekend. I think this movie is going to be the prime choice for older moviegoers and I like the way it's priced.

Coming Attractions

The first weekend of December is usually slow and I don't see either of next weekend's wide releases bucking that trend. "The Theory of Everything" co-stars Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne reunite in the hot-air balloon drama "The Aeronauts" and there is animated film by the name of "Playmobil: The Movie." If ever there was a weekend to get your Christmas shopping done this is the one.

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