Disney’s “Wish” disappoints, “Napoleon” exceeds expectations

Disney may need to find another star to wish for.

“Wish,” the studio’s latest animated adventure, was expected to top the box office over the Thanksgiving holiday. Instead, ticket sales fell short of expectations at $19.5 million over the traditional weekend and $31.7 million over the five-day period, falling to third place behind “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” and Lionsgate’s “Ridley.” Scott’s historical epic “Napoleon”.

Heading into the weekend, the musical “Wish” was expected to gross $35 million over the traditional weekend and $45 million to $50 million in its first five days of release. Ticket sales were not like As disastrous as 2022’s flop “Strange World” ($12 million over its traditional weekend and $18 million over its five-day run), but nowhere near 2021’s “Encanto,” which opened to $40.3 over its five-day run. The first was when Covid was keeping families at home. That’s a far cry from Disney’s pre-pandemic Thanksgiving releases, like 2019’s “Frozen II” ($123.7 million), 2018’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” ($84.6 million) and 2017’s “Coco” ($71 million dollar).

Wish also added $17.3 million at the international box office, opening in just 27 markets (about 40% of its final run overseas), bringing its global total to $49 million. The film’s initially poor reception highlights the short supply of magic at Disney, which was once an untouchable force at the box office. Most of the studio’s 2023 slate, with the exception of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” has significantly underperformed in its theatrical runs. It’s a problem because Disney films are expensive, typically costing around $200 million (and that’s before global marketing expenses are included).

In the case of “Wish,” Disney is hoping the family film stays strong through the busy holiday season, just like “Elemental” this summer, which finished much stronger than expected in a disappointing opening weekend. “Wish” carries a massive production budget of $200 million and needs to show the same kind of endurance to justify its price tag. It helps that viewers, unlike critics, seem to enjoy “Wish,” which earned an “A-” on CinemaScore. The story, which features original music and the voices of Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine, follows a young girl named Asha who attempts to save the fantasy kingdom of Rosas from darkness.

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“Napoleon,” a $200 million war epic starring Joaquin Phoenix as the notorious French governor, opened in second place with a better-than-expected $21 million during the traditional weekend and a $32.5 million take. In the first five days of its launch. Globally, “Napoleon” grossed $78.8 million.

Although “Napoleon” barely edged out “Wish” at the domestic box office, analysts weren’t too harsh on the initial performance. This is partly because “Napoleon” presents a tougher demand on moviegoers. It is an R-rated piece (about a long-dead military commander) aimed at adult audiences and is approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes long. Not exactly fun for the whole family.

A traditional studio wouldn’t be happy with the economics of “Napoleon” (to say the least). The same goes for Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which also cost Apple $200 million and grossed $151 million worldwide.

David A says: “Even though the box office is off to a good start, the production cost is enormous,” said Gross, who runs the film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.

But Apple, one of the richest companies in the world, isn’t overly concerned with the profits and losses of its films (for now). It’s releasing these big-budget films in theaters (“Napoleon” is being distributed by Sony Pictures) to huge buzz when they eventually release on Apple TV+, the company’s competitor to Netflix and Disney+. That’s not to say Apple, which opens with Matthew Vaughn’s “Argylle” on the big screen in 2024 via Universal Pictures, won’t eventually change its tune when it comes to box office dollars.

With “Wish” and “Napoleon” getting off to a lackluster start, last weekend’s champion “The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” came out on top once again. The prequel, starring Rachel Ziegler and Tom Blythe in an action adventure set decades before Katniss Everdeen’s arrival, added $28.8 million over the weekend and $42 million since Wednesday. It has grossed $98.3 million in North America and nearly $200 million worldwide.

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Lionsgate’s return to Panem wasn’t as profitable as the original series, but the prequel cost $100 million, so it’s in good stead for its theatrical run. Although The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, based on Suzanne Collins’ 2020 book, was marketed as a standalone film within the Hunger Games universe, It’s fair to assume that the studio hopes to revisit the dystopian world in future sequels and spin-offs.

“The film opened up an endless series of possibilities for Susan to explore [Lionsgate] “I could go with it,” Adam Fogelson, senior vice president of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, said after the film’s release.

“Trolls Band Together,” produced by Universal and DreamWorks Animation, ranked fourth with revenues of $17.5 million over the weekend and $25.3 million since Wednesday. The animated trilogy, which has grossed $64.4 million to date, likely dampened the appeal of “Wish,” since the kid-friendly films were targeting the same demographic. Trolls 3 grossed $145 million worldwide after two weeks of release, and cost a relatively economical $95 million to produce.

“Thanksgiving,” produced by Sony, ranked fifth, earning $7.1 million over the weekend and $11.1 million over five days. The gory, R-rated film has grossed $24 million so far, which is not bad considering it only cost $15 million to produce.

Elsewhere, Disney’s “The Marvels” fell to sixth place with $6.4 million over the weekend and $9.2 million since Wednesday. The latest comic book adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed $76 million in North America and $187 million worldwide to date. At this rate, it wouldn’t come close to matching Opening weekend than its predecessor, 2019’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million), by the time it leaves theaters in the United States and Canada. What’s worse is that it’s shaping up to be the first MCU film to not reach $100 million at the domestic box office.

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In a frightening box office feat, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” became Blumhouse’s highest-grossing release ever with $283.1 million, surpassing the worldwide tally of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2016 thriller “Split” ($278.7 million).

Overall, this Thanksgiving period brought in $172 million in ticket sales, the highest number since the pandemic upended the movie theater business. But it has fallen short of its pre-coronavirus level when revenues regularly topped $250 million. The holiday peak came in 2018, when Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and the Michael B. Jordan-led sports drama “Creed II” led the box office to $325.6 million.

“Although the Thanksgiving frame is lower than in the pre-2020 era, this week’s results are encouraging for theaters heading into the end of the year,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst at Comscore.

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