Disney Looks Like the Thanksgiving Holiday Box Office Winner

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 25.

Walt Disney's (DIS) "Moana" animated film should finish atop the domestic box office over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to analysts at MKM Partners, BMO Capital Markets and Piper Jaffray.

The film is positioned to produce a five-day gross opening that could challenge the $93.6 million five-day total of Disney's "Frozen" from Thanksgiving 2013, MKM said in a note today. Moana's Wednesday opening of $15.7 million already topped Frozen's $15.2 million same-day debut.

Disney's shares were up two-thirds of a point in early Friday trading, to $98.90.

The new animated film, which stars the voices of actor Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho, should debut in first place with projected revenue of $64 million in its opening weekend, MKM said. BMO also expects the film to debut on top, but to gross $68 million to $73 million this weekend. Piper estimates that Moana will gross $75 million to $80 million domestically over its five-day period.

Harry Potter spinoff "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" should drop to second place this weekend and bring in about $41 million, which is a decline of 45% week-over-week, according to MKM. "Doctor Strange" should end up in third place with an estimated $14 million and "Trolls" and "Arrival" should rake in $11.5 million and $11 million respectively, MKM added.

Noting "limited competition," as 'Trolls' largely completed its run and 'Fantastic Beasts' attracted an older audience, Piper wrote in a recent note that "we see Moana as the de-facto choice for most families this weekend. The film is Disney's first explicitly female-centric musical film since Frozen and is directed by a duo that is responsible for 'The Little Mermaid' and the 'Aladdin.'"

Critics are extremely positive on Moana with most calling it funny, uplifting and inspiring and the film is positioned for a "solid" run through the end of December, Piper added. Additionally, Moana's family audience should help increase awareness of Disney's upcoming family films.

Piper expects Disney to attach its "Beauty and the Beast" trailer and just released "Cars 3" sneak peek to Moana. "This strategy worked really well for Disney earlier in the year, when the company attached 'Jungle Book' and 'Finding Dory' trailers to its 'Zootopia' release," the firm noted.

Warner Brothers' Fantastic Beasts should also "hold well" this weekend, although the film is skewing to an older audience than most expected, according to Piper. About 18% of attendees are under 18 years old.

Meanwhile, revenue from the weekend's top 10 films over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday time frame could total $171 million, which represents 2% growth year-over-year, MKM said. Last year's same weekend top 10 films brought in $168 million, led by $52 million from "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" and debuts of "The Good Dinosaur" and "Creed," which respectively raked in $39.2 million and $29.6 million. 

Box office revenue is up 1.7% quarter-to-date through November 22, MKM added. The firm continues to believe the industry is set for a 5.5% drop in fourth-quarter box office revenue. But MKM is optimistic about 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' which many industry estimates indicate should generate at least $130 million in its opening weekend.

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