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Box Office ReportDisney

‘Moana’ Enjoys 1st Place Launch in the U.S., But Opens Soft in China

Moana, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, powered its way to a first-place opening weekend of $55.5 million (estimated), and a five-day Thanksgiving period of $81.1 million. It marks the second largest five-day Thanksgiving opening of all-time behind the $93.6m debut of Frozen in 2013.

While marking a solid opening for Walt Disney Animation Studios, the opening significantly lags the three-day opening weekends of the studio’s biggest recent hits—the aforementioned Frozen which took in $67.4m and Zootopia which bowed earlier this year with $75.1m. The three-day was roughly on a par with the $56.2m opening of Big Hero 6 in 2014, though the appeal of Moana should propel the film well past the gross of the Disney actioner.

Another way to look at it: adjusted for inflation, the $80.1m five-day Thanksgiving opening of Pixar’s Toy Story 2 would be $135.7m today. The five-day audience for that film was 15.8 million people, while Moana’s audience drew in around 9.4 million people.

How high Moana will go in terms of worldwide box office remains an open question since the film has only rolled out in a handful of territories. The film launched in China last Friday pulling in $12.1m over three days, a soft opening that significantly trailed the simultaneous $39.7m opening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

A big reason that Frozen and Zootopia posted billion-plus grosses is because they were huge hits in Japan and China, respectively. For Moana to post a similar gross, it will also need to find a major international territory in which it outperforms.

Some other box office notes:

Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets has squeaked by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to become the fifth-highest-grossing movie worldwide in 2016. The animated feature has grossed $873.7m to Batman v Superman’s $873.3m. This marks the first time in film history that three of the top five grossers in a calendar year were animated features; the other two animated entries in the top five are Finding Dory and Zootopia.

Dreamworks’ Trolls dropped from 3rd to 6th place, with $10.3m in its fourth U.S. weekend. The domestic total stands at $135.1m, now guaranteed to surpass the gross of Dreamworks’ other 2016 release, Kung Fu Panda 3, which pulled in $143.5m. While Trolls will outperform KFP3 in the U.S., it remains to be seen whether its worldwide gross will beat Po and friends. Worldwide total for Trolls is currently $291m, while the total of KFP3 is $519.9m.

  • WanderPony

    I hope this movie is a big hit. Me and my brothers loved it.

    Plus, it could help prove that audiences WILL watch animated films with non-white characters in the lead.

    • Matt

      Your comment in and of itself is making it sound as if most people have some racial bias to the character they are watching. Your comment is uneducated, bias and unproven. People will watch things as long as they are good not because of an ethnicity of the characters.

      • WanderPony

        I do not feel that way. Hollywood does.

        The point of my comment was that that Hollywood would learn a lesson.

        • Capital_7

          Your point has been disproven again and again. Good times.

        • Matt

          Sorry that is another falsehood that Hollywood is against non white leads. Hollywood is for anything that makes them money and if a non white lead made than an extra dollar than guess what you would see every film with a non white lead. The day you run a major studio and have the power to put who you want into a movie than great but until that time comes I will let the heads of the studios make the calls they want to make since they need to do their job and make things profitable for the shareholders and to keep employees working. Identity politics are not good.

      • Capital_7

        “Biased”, not “bias”. Pet peeve.

    • Fried

      Did Aladdin, Mulan, Jungle Book, Lilo & Stitch, Pocahontas, Brother Bear, Princess and the Frog, and Big Hero 6 not already prove that?

      Next you’ll be saying this movie proves people are finally interested in female leads.

      • WanderPony

        A lot of those films you could say prove that audiences will watch traditional animation, but that isn’t mean Hollywood wants to revive the medium.

        • Fried

          Except you could make the argument in that case that CG was not around and Disney did not have to face such strenuous competition.

          If you think Hollywood is going to change the way they do casting for their live-action movies because of Disney animation, well then, good for you for being such an optimist.

      • Netko

        Yeah I’m seriously baffled at how so many people are constantly accusing Disney, of all things, for having no diversity when they’re famous for making movies set in different cultures and focusing on female characters, not just male ones. Aim your complaints at the right targets, people, don’t just repeat it like some meme without meaning.

    • Mermaid Warrior

      I also hope the movie is a huge hit. It did a lot of things differently from most Disney “princess” films, and I certainly wouldn’t mind more female-led action/adventure Disney movies, ha ha.

    • Bob

      Yeah, cause NO ONE watches anime of course

      • ea

        The way most anime characters are drawn, you’d never guess what race they’re supposed to be.

  • jhalpernkitcat

    This movie was a lot of fun, and “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny” are probably the most catchy songs in it. Also, be sure to stay until the end of the credits, it’s worth it.

    • Josh King

      I’ve seen it twice in theaters already but didn’t stay, what happens?

      • jhalpernkitcat

        Tamatoa is seen still lying on his back. He tells the audience that if his name was Sebastian and he had a cool Jamaican accent they would help him.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    I can’t recall if Frozen or Zootopia were in the same situation, but Moana also had some pretty stiff competition. Doctor Strange and Fantastic Beasts still drew in plenty of audiences. I can’t really speak for the international market, I don’t know enough about Chinese film tastes to guess whether or not a movie would do well there.

    • KnickKnackMyWack

      Well if it helps put things into perspective, the reason the Ancient One was Caucasian in Doctor Strange was to appease the Chinese market. Take that however you will.

  • Strong Enough

    piff i wonder why it was down in china :(

    oh yeah i know…

    • Josh King


      • Strong Enough

        the leads are of a certain color.

        • Zhihong Tan

          This might not be the major reason. The Croods by Dreamworks, which also featured all colored characters, was a huge hit in China back in 2013, grossing $63.3M.

          The major reason for Moana’s box office failure in China seems to be its weak word of mouth: it only got 7.7/10 on (the Chinese counterpart of IMDB); in comparison, the Croods got 8.7/10, and Zootopia got 9.2/10. The common complaints are that Moana lacks the depth and plot twist as in other recent cartoons — it is just too flat and family-oriented in their opinion.

          Also, Chinese viewers do not appreciate the Disney-style musical movies as much as American and Japanese viewers do. For example, Frozen grossed just $48.2M in China, while it grossed $249M in Japan; Zootopia was just the opposite, which grossed $236M in China but ‘merely’ $70M in Japan.

          • Strong Enough

            the croods were all white. what film did you see? lol

  • Comparing Moana’s income to Toy Story 2’s hardly seems fair. Toy Story 2 was a great sequel to an already beloved movie, meanwhile, Moana is completely original, it isn’t even based on a book. It only makes sense Toy Story 2 would make more at first.

  • Matt

    And try proving yours.

  • Capital_7

    I remember the way Lilo and Stitch, Mulan, Aladdin, etc. all failed. Try using your head meat next time and reading the other comments.

  • Fried

    That sounds like some BS headline you read on HuffingtonPost without any proper research behind it.

    Here are a list of films that have flopped despite being whitewashed: Pan, Gods of Egypt, Prince of Persia, The Last Airbender, Lone Ranger.

    Here are movies that flopped despite having big white star actors as the leads: Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Infiltrator, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Zoolander 2, Ghostbusters, Tomorrowland, Hugo, .

    There have in fact been successful movies with non-white leads this year: Ride Along 2, Central Intelligence, Jungle Book, Barbershop, and now Moana. There have also been movies with non-white big stars this year that failed such as Keanu and Concussion. However, this year, 9 out of the 10 movies that have grossed the highest this year have either been a superhero movie or an animated film with 5 of them being released by Disney. So what does all this mean?

    It means the correlation to what is successful has changed so drastically and so hard that literally no one can tell. Even superhero, animation or the Disney name is not a guaranteed success as shown by Rachet and Clank, Storks, The BFG, Fantastic Four, Ice Age, Kubo, The Wild Life, Norm of the North. Reboots aren’t guaranteed draw-ins anymore, big star names can still make a movie flop.

    Trying to find a connection between it like some old 70-year old Hollywood executive grasping at straws just shows how out of touch you are with the industry as a whole and only look at statistics for evidence despite them often times being inconsequential or unrelated.

    Are there some movies that are unpopular with white audiences? Yes. Madea, for one. Are there movies that are unpopular with black audiences? Most rom-coms starring white leads. Does Hollywood still white-wash and have casting problems? Of course. Does this somehow prove that white people as a whole aren’t going to see a movie because it has a major non-white character in it? Dwayne Johnson being the highest-paid actor this year suggests probably not.

    But above all else, do you think you’re going to discover some correlation breakthrough that even people who have jobs dedicated to finding out trends in Hollywood can’t seem to figure out? Absolutely not.

  • Josh King

    Man that’s so weird that there’s such a huge chasm between Moana and Zootopia/Frozen in China. Moana took in 5m on it’s second weekend in China. Zootopia took in 235m total there.

    Loved Moana, even more than Zootopia. Hope it’s still a big success overall