Disney/Pixar's animated Coco may top Justice League at the domestic box office over the Thanksgiving holiday frame, according to the latest projections for both films. Mouse House release have typically ruled over the five-day Thanksgiving box office frame in the past, with Walt Disney Animation Studios animated musicals like Moana and Frozen having topped the five day period in recent years. Pixar's own The Good Dinosaur wasn't able to claim the number one spot over Thanksgiving in 2015, but the story might be different for the animation studio this year.
Coco, like The Good Dinosaur, is an original Pixar offering and the studio's second film of the year, following the release of Cars 3 back in June. Whereas the third Cars installment was given a lukewarm reception by critics, Coco is already being celebrated as Pixar's best movie since Inside Out hit theaters over two years ago, ahead of its release in U.S. theaters. The film, which was co-directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Adrian Molina (co-writer of The Good Dinosaur), tells the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a wannabe musician who finds himself whisked away on a magical journey to the Land of the Dead, where he encounters his long-deceased relatives and uncovers secrets about his family's history.
Thanks to its great word of mouth and broad demographic appeal, Coco (per Deadline) is projected to gross upwards of $60-65 million over the five day Thanksgiving frame, including some $40 million over the weekend proper. That puts the Pixar film within earshot of Justice League, which is expected to see its sales decline by 50-60% from its opening frame (a pretty typical number for tentpoles) and take in $60-65 million over the holiday period, as well as $40-42 million during the weekend. In other words, it could be a rather tight race for the number one spot over the frame.
Both the Denzel Washington-headlined legal drama/thriller Roman J. Israel, Esq. and Greta Gerwig's acclaimed coming of age tale Lady Bird are expanding into nationwide release over the Thanksgiving frame. However, much like this weekend's other new release The Man Who Invented Christmas (which is getting a semi-wide rollout), neither of those films will pose an actual threat to Justice League's current reign atop the domestic box office and will have more niche appeal, instead. That means that Coco is the only movie with a real shot at dethroning DC's biggest superheroes from atop their perch this weekend.
One factor that could give Coco the edge over Justice League at the box office is that the former is the first Pixar film to feature an all-latino cast of characters - something that will only broaden its appeal to more demographics at the U.S. box office. Following the initial controversy that surrounded the film after Disney made the faux pas of trying to trademark "Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead" (back when Coco was going by its working title, "Untitled Pixar Día de los Muertos Film"), Pixar took extra steps to ensure the cultural authenticity of the film and its representation of Mexican culture/traditions. That seems to have not only benefitted the film from a creative perspective, but also served to provide assurances to those moviegoers who were concerned that Coco would be an insensitive big studio movie appropriation of a holiday/culture.
As for Justice League, it's coming off a disappointing domestic box office opening weekend (one that was down substantially from Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice's debut last year), but has also earned a respectable B+ Cinemascore from general audiences. That suggests that the DC Comics adaptation is generating stronger word of mouth among moviegoers than Batman V Superman did and should have better legs at the box office for it. Whether or not that will be enough to fend off Disney/Pixar's latest critical darling, however, remains to be seen.
- Coco (2017) release date: Nov 22, 2017