‘Encanto’ leads box office in subdued weekend at the movies

"Encanto" introduces the Madrigal family, who have each been granted extraordinary gifts, except one, our heroine, Mirabel (Stefanie Beatriz), who has yet to discover her own personal magic. (Disney/TNS)
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Brian Eckhouse Bloomberg News (TNS)

Even a new Walt Disney Co. animated film with a score by Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame failed to light up the box office over the normally strong Thanksgiving weekend, a sign consumers are still cautious about going to cinemas.

“Encanto,” a musical about a family in Colombia with magical powers, generated an estimated $40.3 million in ticket sales over the five-day holiday weekend, Disney said Sunday. That was below some estimates, even though the picture scored well with critics and was released only in theaters. Forecasts for the weekend ranged from a low of $35 million from Disney to $56.4 million from Boxoffice Pro.

Sony Group Corp.’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” another installment in the supernatural comedy franchise, made $35.3 million in its second weekend, according to the studio. “House of Gucci,” a new drama starring Adam Driver, Lady Gaga and Al Pacino, opened with $21.8 million, according to its distributor.

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Thanksgiving has historically ranked among the busiest moviegoing stretches of the year, buoyed by crowd-pleasers that attract families or buzzy Oscar contenders aimed at adults. But this year, revenue amounted to just $142 million, researcher Comscore Inc. estimated in a release. In 2019, domestic ticket sales totaled $262.3 million, led by “Frozen II,” “Ford v. Ferrari” and “Knives Out.”

Disney has used the period to release some of its biggest family films, including 2013’s “Frozen” and “Moana” three years later. But some parents are still hesitant to bring kids to cinemas this year, and many older film lovers are staying home to watch dramas on TV.

“House of Gucci,” from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was recommended by 60% of critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Sony’s “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” opened with sales of $8.8 million. It was recommended by just 26% of reviewers.

The North American theater industry had hoped that the momentum generated in October — the best-grossing month of the pandemic era — would continue through the fourth quarter. But through the first three weeks of November, sales were about $284 million shy of October’s total of more than $637 million, according to Comscore. November featured a Marvel movie — “Eternals” — that underwhelmed at the box office.

Theaters faced heavy competition this week from streaming services. Disney+ rolled out the three episodes of director Peter Jackson’s much-anticipated “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary, along with “Hawkeye,” a new Marvel series. And “King Richard,” starring Will Smith as the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, was available on HBO Max as well as in cinemas.

“Encanto” is about a family whose children have extraordinary powers — except for one, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz. A strong 93% of critics recommended the movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

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