Disney’s animated feature Moana topped the box office in a traditionally weak “in-between-the-holidays” weekend, dropping just 50% and earning $28.2 million.  While some holdovers fared well, the weekend’s only new film, the horror thriller Incarnate was a bust, and the overall box office was down 3.2% from the same weekend last year when The Hunger Games Mockingjay, Part 2 topped the charts for the third weekend in a row with $18.9 million.

Moana opened lower than Disney’s megahit Frozen, which debuted over Thanksgiving in 2013, but Moana posted a better second week hold (50% versus 53% for Frozen), and bears watching over the next few weeks--though Moana will face much stiffer competition for the family audience than Frozen did with Star Wars: Rogue One and Illumination Entertainment’s animated musical Sing both opening in December.  Moana has now earned nearly $120 million in North America and, from the looks of its second week performance, could easily double that total by the end of its domestic run.

Second place went to the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which slipped 58.9% in its third weekend as it earned $18.5 million to bring its domestic total to $183.5 million.  Although Fantastic Beasts is now running about 20% behind the first Harry Potter movie (not adjusting for inflation), it is demonstrating solid “legs” here in North America where it is now the #10 movie of 2016 so far.  Fantastic Beasts is doing even better overseas where it has earned $424.4 million for a worldwide total of $607.9 million, giving it the tenth best worldwide total for the year so far.  While Fantastic Beasts may have opened on the lower side of expectations, its leggy performance in the domestic market suggest that Warner Bros. has indeed found a replacement of sorts for the Harry Potter money train in the 5-part Fantastic Beasts prequel/spin-off series.

Mention should be made of this falls adult-skewing stealth hit, Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral science fiction film Arrival, which moved up to #3 (from #5 last week) in its fourth weekend in theaters as it earned $7.3 million, a drop of just 36.3%.  Yes $7.3 million is no big deal for a blockbuster, but this serious and thought-provoking science fiction film has now earned $73 million here in North America, a strong showing for an adult-skewing drama.  With this solid box office performance it appears that Arrival’s only handicap at the Oscars will be its genre.

Allied, the romantic World War II spy drama/romance starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, is showing some signs of life after its moribund debut.  Allied dropped only 44.5% in its second weekend as it earned $7 million to bring its domestic total to $28.9 million.  Allied opened in a few more overseas territories, driving its worldwide total to $53.8 million, but it will likely have to hit a global total of $200 million to offset its $85 million cost, so this cinematic “throwback” still faces stiff challenges.

Weekend Box Office (Studio Estimates): December 2-4, 2016


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Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them





















Doctor Strange














Hacksaw Ridge







Bad Santa 2














Almost Christmas






Marvel Studio’s Doctor Strange fell 52.8% in its fifth weekend, earning $6.5 million to bring its domestic total to $215.3 million, the ninth best showing of 2016 so far. Doctor Strange is now the ninth highest-grossing release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and its global total of $624.9 million has topped both Iron Man ($585 million) and Iron Man 2 ($623 million), not taking into account ticket price inflation (which has become more of a factor this year with the opening of more refurbished and deluxe venues—after rising slowly from 2011-2014, ticket prices were up 3% in 2015 and 1.4% more this year, with the average ticket costing 56 cents more today than it did in 2014).

In addition to Arrival, there is another adult-skewing drama that demonstrated remarkable staying power, Mel Gibson’s bloody WWII drama, Hacksaw Ridge, which slipped just 38.4% in its fifth weekend of release.  This R-rated military drama has now earned $57.3 million.

This weekend’s lone wide release, the horror thriller Incarnate, which debuted in just over 1700 theaters, earned a mere $2.66 million, which was only good enough for ninth place.  While the movie only cost $5 million to produce and was promoted via a largely digital ad campaign that reportedly cost only a few million and is thus unlikely to lose money, horror films have accounted for more than a few of the non-blockbusters successes at the 2016 box office, though it is already clear Incarnate, which attracted a small, but diverse crowd (47% Caucasian, 26% Hispanic, and 18% African-American), won’t be one of those micro-budgeted hits.

Be sure to check back here next week, to see if Moana will continue its dominance in what is traditionally another weak box office session with only the ensemble comedy Office Christmas Party (and the expansion of the Europa Corp thriller Miss Sloane to about 1,600 theaters) providing any new competition.