With awards season in full swing, demand for prestige titles is growing; Fox will debut its Jacqueline Kennedy-centered drama Jackie in limited release this weekend, while awards-bound holdovers like Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight continue to impress along their respective expansion routes.
Audiences are still hungry for commercial fare, however, as Disney’s Moana finds itself in prime position to score its second weekend at No. 1 on the North American chart, while Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows close behind, eyeing up another second-place finish atop an otherwise sparse week in which only one new film is set to open on more than 1,000 theaters nationwide.
Here’s how the Dec. 2-4 weekend box office battle could play out:
1. Moana – $26.5 million
Disney’s latest animated adventure (featuring its first-ever Polynesian princess) broke a pre-Thanksgiving box office record last week, taking in $15.5 million on Wednesday to beat Frozen‘s $15.1 million gross over the same period in 2013. It ultimately failed to reach Frozen‘s domestic heights over the weekend, however, falling around $11 million short of its studio brethren’s $67.4 million opening haul.
Still, with virtually no competition in the way of new releases (Incarnate, a horror flick, starkly contrasts the film’s family-oriented tone), Moana exists as the most prominent animated title in theaters, and its second weekend decline will reflect that.
Expect the movie to follow in Frozen‘s footsteps, dropping somewhere in the 45-55 percent range for another finish at the top of the North American chart.
2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – $21 million
Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter spin-off dropped a slight 39.4 percent across its second weekend in theaters, earning just over $45 million over the three-day holiday period. Its third weekend should see the $180 million fantasy tumble a bit harder, as previous films set in the Potterverse tend to be front-loaded — namely both parts of the Deathly Hallows series. Perhaps it’s best to look at Peter Jackson’s Hobbit series, which launched in 2012, as a barometer for which to gauge Fantastic Beast‘s success, as each Hobbit film ultimately finished with lower totals than the preceding movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Despite notching the lowest opening of any film set in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world, Fantastic Beasts is still a worldwide hit, having earned $507 million (and counting) globally.
The David Yates-directed film could land in the $18-23 million range this weekend.
3. Allied – $7.5 million
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard’s first onscreen pairing stumbled over its premiere weekend in theaters, pulling in a modest $12.7 million over the three-day frame. The $85 million production should stay afloat in its second outing thanks to strong word-of-mouth and the bankability of its glamorous stars, as the older audiences typically stretch out further into a given film’s release cycle than other demographics.
Look for Allied to fall in the $6-8 million range by Sunday’s end.
4. Arrival – $7.3 million
Since taking the festival circuit by storm earlier this fall, Arrival has registered one of the most impressive box office runs of the year thus far, debuting to a solid $24 million in November ahead of posting decent weekday hauls in subsequent days. Over its third weekend, the film shed a mere 5.6 percent, and its domestic total now stands at just over $65 million on a relatively low $47 million budget. The Amy Adams-starring drama is expected to perform well with awards bodies in the ongoing Oscar race, and has thus far exceeded expectations in the hands of audiences, who’ve boosted the film’s Oscar profile — which also includes some of the best critical reviews of this year’s wide releases.
Arrival should hang on strong during its fourth weekend in cinemas, likely adding anywhere between $6-8 million to its ballooning total.
5. Doctor Strange – $6 million
The domestic run for Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange is winding down, and the film’s worldwide totals ($619.4 million) helped Disney secure another record-breaking year at the global box office. Doctor Strange has tallied winning numbers after four weeks in theaters, as it is currently shaping up to finish its North American release as the ninth highest-grossing Marvel title, and will gross around $5-7 million this weekend.
Outside the top five, Blumhouse Productions’ BH Tilt division, which promotes genre-driven films exclusively to horror fans, is debuting the week’s widest new release, Incarnate, to 1,737 theaters on Friday. Theaters playing the spooky production, which stars Aaron Eckhart and Catalina Sandino Moreno, were selected because they are traditionally frequented by fans of the genre, according to the distributor. Though BH Tilt’s approach isn’t typical for wide releases, its structure poises Incarnate for success if it opens in the $4-5 million range.