What the underwhelming box office of 'House of Gucci' and 'Encanto' means for the movie business

What the underwhelming box office of 'House of Gucci' and 'Encanto' means for the movie business
·4 min read
Lady Gaga pointing to her ring
Lady Gaga in "House of Gucci."MGM
  • "House of Gucci" and "Encanto" underwhelmed at the box office over the Thanksgiving holiday.

  • The box office was up from last year, but still far from pre-pandemic levels.

  • The movies largely disappointed in bringing out older adults and families to theaters.

The good news for this year's Thanksgiving domestic box office is that it was up 64.8% compared to 2020, according to Comscore.

The bad news is that it's still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, and not even a well-reviewed Disney animated movie could save it.

The total North American box office over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday in 2019 was $262.3 million, buoyed by Disney's "Frozen II" and the surprise hit "Knives Out." It totaled $180 million over that three-day weekend, according to data from Box Office Mojo.

2018 was even stronger with $314.9 million over five days.

This year, the five-day holiday totaled $142 million and the three day $97.3 million, according to Comscore.

The underwhelming result offers a few insights into the state of Hollywood and movie theaters in the US.

Adult dramas aren't working

Young people have driven some of the year's biggest movies, like "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" and "Venom: Let There Be Carnage."

But older audiences have been slow to return to theaters. Even the James Bond movie "No Time to Die" has been running a marathon at the domestic box office rather than a sprint.

Director Ridley Scott's "House of Gucci" was yet another test for whether older audiences — the 45-plus crowd — would head to the theater for an adult-skewing, star-powered, non-franchise drama. And by most accounts, it failed.

34% of its audience was 45 years and older, according to the movie's distributor, MGM. It's a decent number, but it still only earned $14 million over the three-day weekend and $21 million since opening on Wednesday.

"The Last Duel," also directed by Scott, suffered a worse fate when it was released last month. Another adult drama with movie stars, the movie bombed with $4.8 million in its first weekend. It's grossed just $10.8 million domestically since and $28.8 million globally.

The reality is that most movies that aren't big-budget franchise tentpoles or horror films have struggled at the box office this year.

The Imax CEO Richard Gelfond told Insider during a recent interview that the pandemic "accelerated the drive towards blockbuster movies in theaters."

He predicted that less expensive movies would "go straight to streaming."

Maribel in Encanto
"Encanto."Walt Disney Animation

Disney might have to make some tough decisions

The 2021 box office has lacked exclusive animated family movies that could give it a boost.

Pixar's "Luca" debuted on Disney+. "The Boss Baby: Family Business," "Tom and Jerry," and "Paw Patrol: The Movie" were released simultaneously in theaters and on various streaming services.

"Encanto" marked the biggest animated release of the year that wasn't also streaming somewhere. The movie grossed $27 million over the three-day weekend and $40 million over the five-day holiday. It's not a terrible result given that it cost just $50 million to make. But it's not exactly celebratory either, at least by Disney standards.

After the success of "Shang-Chi," Disney announced its remaining 2021 releases would have exclusive theatrical windows before becoming available to stream.

The strategy has had underwhelming results. Marvel's "Eternals" has grossed $150 million domestically and $368 million worldwide, and will likely stall out in the coming weeks. With a $200 million production budget before marketing expenses, it's a concerning figure.

Meanwhile, Disney+ is seeing signs of slowdown in its growth. The service added just 2 million subscribers in the most recent quarter, missing projections.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during the company's earnings call this month that he was watching the theatrical marketplace "very carefully" to see which demographics were showing up. That could mean more strategy changes in the future.

Disney's theatrical release schedule for the remainder of the year includes movies it inherited through its acquisition of the Fox studio: Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" remake, "The King's Man," and Guillermo del Toro's "Nightmare Alley."

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