The Walt Disney Company (DIS) scored yet again at the box office over the Thanksgiving weekend. Encanto, the studio's latest release, swept to the top of the box office, collecting $40.3 million from 3,980 theaters in North America from Wednesday to Sunday.
- Disney's Encanto topped the box office over the Thanksgiving weekend, making it the biggest animated movie opening during the pandemic.
- The movie's box office performance is still weak as compared to Thanksgiving releases in previous years.
- The box office collections of Encanto are another data point for Disney to include while considering a release strategy in the future.
While that figure does not match the box office collections of Disney's other blockbuster releases this year, it is enough to make Encanto the biggest animated movie opening during the pandemic. The movie also failed to match the box office performance of Disney’s other releases over the Thanksgiving weekend in past years. For example, the studio's Frozen II garnered $123.7 million over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2019, and Ralph Breaks the Internet collected $84.6 million in 2018.
Research firm EntTelligence said that Encanto filled up about 35% of seats available to viewers for watching it. "This is a fair opening by pandemic standards, and a weak opening by Disney historical standards," David A. Gross, of film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, told the New York Times.
With a production tag of $175 million, the movie still has lots of ground to cover before recouping its costs. According to reports, the movie's box office performance will improve from positive word-of-mouth recommendations and critical acclaim. It is also expected to perform well in overseas markets.
A Box Office Data Point
For Disney, the box office performance of Encanto may become yet another data point in attempting to achieve a balance between streaming and theatrical releases. The pandemic shutdown changed the dynamics of movie releases, forcing studios to consider streaming as a viable revenue stream for their movies. While some studios like AT&T Inc. (T)-owned WarnerMedia chose the streaming-only release option, Disney has not committed to a strategy yet, even though the breakneck growth of Disney Plus enamored investors during the pandemic.
The Burbank, California-based company faced fierce backlash from stars and movie distributors this past summer after it released its latest Marvel movie Black Widow simultaneously on streaming and in theaters. It corrected course by releasing its next movie—Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings—in theaters only. That movie is the highest grossing film at the box office this year. Eternals, Disney's latest release before Encanto, received a mixed reception at the box office and from critics.
Unlike Marvel movies, family fare like Encanto faces additional complications due to varying vaccine mandates for kids. During a previous earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told analysts that the company was "very, very carefully" watching the box office performance of movies catering to different demographics.
"We're still unsure in terms of how the marketplace is going to react when family films come back with a theatrical-first window," he said. "I should say that you'll notice that the films that we are putting into the marketplace in theatrical that are family films have a fairly short window at least in terms of any reference point to what history might have been." Encanto is scheduled for release on Disney Plus on Dec. 24.