Streaming Continues To Hurt Thanksgiving Box Office

L-R: Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) in SHE SAID, directed by Maria Schrader. © Universal Studios.

With the rising costs of tickets at movie theaters, make no mistake that streaming is continuing to have an impact at the box office.

It isn’t necessarily the cost of tickets though as it could be the subject of a film. A story could still be important viewing but it might not be subject matter that falls under entertaining and enjoyable. Take a film like She Said, for instance. It flopped over it’s opening weekend and I am not the least bit surprised. When I saw the film in October, my initial feelings were that it tells an important story but it’s not a film that I find entertaining or enjoyable. Universal made a serious mistake with its release of She Said. What was a wide release of over 2,000 theaters last weekend should have been a platformed release. Platforming the title would allow for the word of mouth to grow. It is not making the top ten with just over $1.5 million.

Universal expanded Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans into a wide release this weekend. It is only playing in 638 theaters and bringing in about $3 million for the 5-day weekend. Again, Thanksgiving is a busy weekend. Families are getting together and they might not want to see a movie this weekend. If they do, they might end up doing a special event film like Glass Onion. The Fabelmans will be playing in theaters next weekend but the Rian Johnson film isn’t. When audiences know something is super-limited, there’s a strong chance that they’ll turn out and support it. My guess is that Universal will see better numbers for The Fabelmans next weekend. While Covid numbers are rising again, the film should perform better than West Side Story.

Netflix is not in the business of reporting numbers but Glass Onion is reportedly doing big business at theaters. I’ll it again–they need to extend the theatrical release. This is a movie that people need to watch with an audience. It’s the best way of watching the film in my opinion. Because of this, it isn’t surprising to see it drawing the high audience numbers with outlets are reporting a weekend take of $10-$12.5 million.

The Menu is entering its second weekend of release. However, the film is performing as well as many adult comedies have of late, which is to say not well. It’s earning an estimated $7 million this weekend to extend its gross to almost $20 million.

When one looks at the other adult titles this weekend, both streaming and football will have a huge impact. There were years where I would have gone to the movie theaters on Thanksgiving Day but this hasn’t happened in previous years. It’s a lot of staying in and watching TV before and after dinner. When families do this, it impacts the box office. Factor in just how much is opening this weekend and one could see a movie every single day of the long holiday weekend. There are films opening this weekend that should be seen in theaters. Take Devotion, for instance. It’s a film that plays best in an IMAX theater. Is it opening in IMAX across the country? My guess is probably not because of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It is bringing in an estimated $10 million this weekend.

Finally, let’s dive into Strange World. This is where I am so happy that Bob Iger is taking over as Disney CEO. Iger knows how to open a film. Bob Chapek, not so much. Throughout Chapek’s short reign, animated films opening on Thanksgiving would be streaming on Disney+ a month later. When families know this, they are not going to rush to theaters. It’s a shame because this film is so beautiful. Having an openly gay character in a Disney film is huge and representation matters. It could do great streaming numbers but at the end of the day, it is the box office numbers that still count. It’s performing at $20-23 million this weekend, which is not great compared to other Disney films. Its budget is $135 million and it’s performing at Treasure Planet levels.

I’m not even getting into the Netflix release of Wednesday or Peacock launching Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin. If anything, the titles are taking a bite out of the box office as families rush to finish watching them. Not taking the streaming series into account, there’s so much to choose from this weekend that there’s just not enough time to watch everything. Aside from Glass Onion, everything should still be playing next weekend although She Said will not last through the end of the year in first-run theaters if it continues to perform poorly. The film’s box office gross would be great for an art house title but not for a studio release. It’s a film that might be playing better for awards voters rather than the general audiences who want to be entertained.

Thanksgiving weekend should have seen a return to 2019 pre-pandemic numbers. It’s clear that audiences are either more fractured than ever or they’ve been trained to wait for titles to hit streaming–especially with the increasing costs of movie tickets. This is the biggest difference between the 45-day window and the 90-day window. In some cases, Universal is ending their films to VOD before 45 days and this does not help theaters when it comes to getting the audience back in seats.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.