Who knew that a lumbering dude named Ralph, along with the aging Rocky Balboa and a young fighter named Adonis Creed, would supplant the record Thanksgiving box office set in 2013 when Katniss Everdeen and a new Disney heroine named Elsa collectively fueled huge holiday ticket sales?
Revenue at the 2018 Thanksgiving box office hit an estimated $314 million for the Wednesday to Sunday corridor, led by new offerings Disney Animation Studios' Ralph Breaks the Internet ($84.5 million) and MGM's Creed II ($55.8 million).
The previous biggest Thanksgiving was set in 2013 with $295 million, when Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Disney Animation Studios' Frozen topped the chart with five-day earnings of $109 million and $93.6 million, respectively.
The 2018 bounty was aided by popular side dishes including holdovers Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($43 million), The Grinch ($42 million) and Bohemian Rhapsody ($19.4 million).
Both Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II came in well ahead of prerelease tracking. Each also paced well ahead of their predecessors, Wreck-It Ralph ($49 million) and Creed ($42 million). The first Creed likewise opened over five-day Thanksgiving frame.
Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, Ralph 2 was fueled by families (76 percent), who wield tremendous buying power at the box office. The sequel scored the second-biggest five-day Thanksgiving opening behind Frozen, not adjusted to the follow up.
The critically acclaimed follow-up sees John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman returning to lead the voice cast, while newcomers include Gal Gadot and Taraji P. Henson. The animation empire that Walt Disney built has been leery of sequels, and Ralph Breaks the Internet became only the second theatrical sequel from Walt Disney Animation Studios, following Fantasia 2000.
"The filmmakers dove back into a world that is relevant to everyone and created new obstacles for the characters," Disney distribution president Cathleen Taff says.
Overseas, Ralph Breaks the Internet opened in its first 18 markets — only three were major: China, Mexico and Russia — for an early foreign total of $41.5 million and $126 million globally. The pic topped the chart in China with $19.5 million, a tidy sum
Creed II — claiming the top five-day holiday opening of all time for a live-action film — owes much of its impressive opening to a notably diverse audience; Caucasians made up 38 percent of ticket buyers, followed by African Americans (29 percent), Hispanics (22 percent) and Asian/Other (11 percent), according to MGM.
The sequel to the 2015 Creed, which revived the Rocky franchise after a long hiatus, sees the return of Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and Sylvester Stallone. MGM partnered with New Line on Creed II.
"This is a timeless franchise for us at MGM, and it's a thrill to see both its legacy and new generation of audiences continue to respond to Rocky Balboa and Adonis Creed in this time when we need uplifting stories," says MGM film chief Jonathan Glickman.
Adds box office analyst Jeff Bock: "Sequels that audiences actually want to see have been the hallmark of the 2018 box office, and that continued with the Thanksgiving feast this week. Both delivered the goods, elevating the well-tread material with top-notch marketing and solid performances."