Disney’s “Wish” disappoints at box office on Thanksgiving

  • Disney’s “Wish” stumbled at the box office over Thanksgiving weekend, bringing in just $31.6 million during the five-day period.
  • It faced ticket sales competition from “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” “Napoleon” and “Trolls Band Together.”
  • It’s historically rare for Disney to lag at the box office on Thanksgiving, but it has struggled since the pandemic to inspire moviegoers to head to theaters to see its latest feature.

Ariana DeBose plays Asha in Disney’s new animated film “Wish.”

Disney

Disney needs to do more than just want some stars to get out of the animation rut.

The latest animated film, “Wish,” billed as a celebration of 100 years of storytelling, stumbled at the box office over Thanksgiving weekend. It grossed just $31.6 million over the five-day period, well below box office analysts’ expectations of between $45 million and $55 million.

Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” took first place during the five-day holiday, bringing in $42.2 million in ticket sales. “Napoleon,” produced by Apple and Sony, an R-rated epic film directed by Ridley Scott, came in second place with revenues of $32.75 million.

It’s historically rare for Disney to be late at the box office on Thanksgiving. For more than a decade, the company has released its highest-grossing animated films during the Wednesday-Sunday frame, and has even set records for the highest-grossing openings for films released on Thanksgiving.

But it has struggled since the pandemic to inspire moviegoers to head to theaters to see its latest features.

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“The set-it-and-forget-it strategy based on past performance can no longer be used by any studio,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “There are some hard lessons to be learned as this confusing film market continues to rewrite the rules and audiences make their preferences known either by their presence or absence in cinemas.”

“Wish”‘s poor performance extends an unfortunate pattern for the company, which operates two animation studios – Walt Disney Animation and Pixar.

Much of Disney’s problems have come from executive decisions to stock its fledgling streaming service Disney+ with content, expand its creative teams and send theatrical films during the pandemic straight to digital.

Parents, who have been confused about when and where animated films will be released, have been missing out on theatrical release of a number of Disney titles in the wake of the pandemic. And many of those films were not well received by those who did.

Then there are the added pressures of shareholders who have become focused on Disney+’s profitability, tight marketing budgets and audiences who have become more selective about when and what they go out to see in cinemas.

Disney, which has dominated the animation genre for decades, faces stiff competition from Netflix, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros, and others, for moviegoers’ attention. Just one week before Wish hits theaters, Universal’s animation studio DreamWorks has released Trolls Band Together, the third installment in the popular Trolls franchise.

“Trolls Band Together” earned $25.6 million in ticket sales over the five-day Thanksgiving period, only a few million less than “Wish.” Box office analysts believe that “Trolls” ate up ticket sales for “Wish.”

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“Entering the market with a familiar ‘Trolls’ movie already in the mix was a recipe for a less-than-stellar result for the company’s latest release,” Dergarabedian said.

However, the story of “Desire” is not over yet. Disney has had success over the theatrical release of films like “Elemental,” which grossed just $29.6 million during its domestic opening but went on to secure nearly $480 million globally before leaving theaters.

Likewise, “Encanto” earned $40.3 million for the five-day Thanksgiving period in 2021. Although it earned less than $250 million globally during the pandemic, it found new life on Disney+. The film quickly became a favorite with children and adults alike, who gravitated towards catchy tunes like “We’re Not Talking About Bruno.”

“Fortunately, Wish has a family movie pass in December and of course a future on Disney+ to boost its fortunes,” Dergarabedian said.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal distributed “Trolls Band Together”.

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