NOTE: In lieu of a regular box office prediction post this week, we are going to analyze Moana's chances of topping Frozen. All box office numbers are as of December 1, 2016.
By now, Walt Disney Pictures' record-breaking 2016 has been well-documented, and the studio's banner year continued over the Thanksgiving holiday with the release of their latest animated hit, Moana. The adventure film easily won its opening weekend, making an impressive $82 million domestically over the five-day frame. With no true high-profile new releases on the horizon until Rogue One: A Star Wars Story later this month (Incarnate and Office Christmas Party are the lone wide newcomers the next two weeks), Moana should be set up for a prolonged run of dominance, especially considering that the word-of-mouth was enthusiastic.
Moana's release window is the same Disney chose for Frozen back in 2013, and that obviously worked very well for the Mouse House. Frozen grossed a whopping $400.7 million in the United States, finishing the year third on the 2013 domestic charts. So how can Moana - another movie released in late November featuring a catchy soundtrack - stack up? Is there a chance that Maui can defeat Elsa and reign supreme in Disney Animation? In a special edition of the box office prediction (since Moana will clearly win the weekend), we explore that very topic.
When comparing the first eight days of their respective runs, Moana is the clear victor, as it's brought in $89.5 million to Frozen's $53.3 million. However, there's a caveat to this. In Frozen's first weekend of release, it played in a limited number of theaters and grossed $243,390. It went nationwide the following week during Thanksgiving and immediately made a splash. Though it couldn't top The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frozen still made $93.5 million for the five-day weekend, which is considerably higher than Moana's figures. The same can be said for the regular three-day period, where Frozen grossed $67.3 million and Moana made $56.6. Both are very commercially successful, but Frozen caught on in the bigger way.
In its second weekend of wide release, Frozen fell 53.1 percent to bring in $31.6 million (though it still won the weekend). This will be the barometer for Moana. If it is to have any chance of beating Frozen's domestic total, it needs to have a very strong hold this weekend - something closer to Zootopia's 31.6 percent decrease than Frozen's 53.1 percent. The odds of that happening are actually quite favorable; while Frozen was going head-to-head with Catching Fire (at the peak of Hunger Games popularity), Moana will essentially have the marketplace to itself. Incarnate isn't going to pose a challenge, and the most high-profile holdover is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The gap between Moana and Fantastic Beasts last week ($11.6 million) is higher than the $5 million disparity between Frozen and Hunger Games in Frozen's second wide weekend. Nothing poses a threat to Disney's latest, and it should have another lucrative weekend.
However, December will throw a couple of sizable obstacles in Moana's way. Rogue One is currently projected to make $130+ million in its debut, which is much higher than the $73.6 million The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug made in December 2013. Moana will undoubtedly take a substantial hit that weekend, particularly since Star Wars is a brand with unparalleled appeal. Additionally, December 21 sees the release of Illumination Entertainment's Sing. Oddly enough, Frozen never had to go against another animated movie during its heyday, meaning it had a monopoly on its target deomographic. Illumination has quickly risen amongst the ranks in the film industry and Sing should be another winner for the studio. Even if Moana maintains decent legs throughout the month, it's going to have trouble contending with those two films.
The bottom line is that Moana probably won't be able to beat Frozen's $400.7 million, but that won't mean it will go down as a disappointment. It should end up with a very high total. Zootopia finished with $341.2 million, even though it eventually had to cross paths with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Something in that range is the most likely outcome (Zootopia's first eight days netted $84.9 million), though the word-of-mouth for both Rogue One and Sing will go a long way in determining the final number. Either way, just getting into the neighborhood of $300 million (which would be Disney's fifth such release this year) is a fantastic achievement.
Next week, the box office prediction returns to its regular format.