Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 21.
To everybody who regularly goes into purple-faced conniptions every time someone mentions shopping on Thanksgiving, a question: you know movie theaters are always open on that night, right?
Dating back to the release of Rocky IV in 1985 -- which made $31.7 million over that five-day weekend and still ranks as the 18th-best Thanksgiving opening of all time -- studios have designated Thanksgiving weekend as a mini blockbuster season. Sony regularly times the releases of its James Bond films to get some of that sweet post-Thanksgiving dinner money. Warner Brothers used Thanksgiving to its advantage during November openings of Harry Potter films. Summit and Lions Gate Films both saw opportunity in Thanksgiving when releasing Hunger Games and Twilight films around Thanksgiving.
However, there's one studio that's absolutely cornered the market on Thanksgiving weekend releases: Disney. Since 1986, Disney and its subsidiary studios (Hollywood, Touchstone, Pixar, etc.) have released 20 films on Thanksgiving weekend. The best among them read like a murderer's row: Aladdin, Toy Story,Toy Story 2,Enchanted,A Bug's Life and Frozen. This year, Moana gets the call. It's a brilliant scheme: launch a family friendly film by Thanksgiving, have the merchandise in stores in time for Christmas.
It's the reason that November releases of any sort are considered the start of the holiday movie season. For five of the last ten holiday seasons, the biggest movie of Thanksgiving ended up being the biggest movie of the season overall. In each case, those films -- Twilight (2008), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010), Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011), Skyfall (2012) and Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) -- produced 8% to 16% of the total box-office take for the entire season.
Most surprisingly, there isn't one superhero movie in that mix (the Thor movies haven't done so well and Doctor Strange's fate is still in question) and there's only one film -- Catching Fire -- that ended up being the highest-grossing movie of the year.
We were originally going to go over the best Thanksgiving openings of all time, but that became an ad for Disney pretty quickly. Instead, we're going to take a look at the 10 films that have inspired Thanksgiving families, Black Friday shoppers and Thanksgiving weekend guests to part with their money during that five-day span. Call Thanksgiving shopping and Black Friday doorbusters crassly commercial if you'd like, but folks were lining up for these films long before Black Friday ascended to the No. 1 shopping day of the year back in 2003, according to market research firm ShopperTrak: