With all of the animation released in recent years, it would seem that this would have certainly happened at some point in the past. So why hasn’t it? A major reason is that studios have generally avoided releasing major animated films head-to-head. The prevailing attitude in Hollywood has been, until very recently, that audiences can’t handle more than one animated film at the same time.
It’s an attitude that stems from Hollywood’s outdated understanding of animation. Even as animated films have grown as a percentage of the overall box office market share, studios have continued to treat animation as a niche genre, and just as film studios will try to avoid releasing other blockbuster genre titles head-to-head (like two sci-fi films at the same time or two superhero titles), they have assiduously avoided releasing “animation genre” films together.
This attitude seems to finally be shifting, with Hollywood slowly accepting that animation is not a genre, but a filmmmaking technique. If the market can support dozens of live-action films at the same time, it can surely handle a few animated films, too.
Ralph and The Grinch are proving to Hollywood once and for all that multiple animated films at the box office can co-exist, perform well, and in fact, dominate the entire box office. Journalists can finally stop asking, “Are Hollywood studios cranking out too many animated films?” If anything, Hollywood is making too few animated films.
And if this record-breaking weekend isn’t enough, get ready for the following weekend, when Sony Pictures Animation will release Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the most tonally experimental animated feature made by a major American studio in a long time. Depending on that film’s performance, we should really start a discussion about animation in the U.S. marketplace and whether film studios actually understand the breadth and diversity of animation that audiences want to see.