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December, 4, 2016

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'Moana' dominates at Thanksgiving holiday box office

NEW YORK--Disney's South Pacific animated tale "Moana" fell short of a "Frozen"-sized debut but nevertheless dominated the Thanksgiving box office with an estimated US$81.1 million over the five-day weekend.

The well-reviewed "Moana," about a princess's mythical journey in ancient Polynesia, earned US$55.5 million from Friday to Sunday in North America, according to studio estimates Sunday. Though it didn't match the 2013 Thanksgiving release of "Frozen" (US$93.6 million over five days in 2013), "Moana" ("MWAH-nah") scored the second-highest Turkey Day debut ever.

Boosted by the star power of Dwayne Johnson and the appeal of original songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda of "Hamilton," "Moana" landed Disney another big hit in a year full of them. The studio has notched four of the top six films ("Finding Dory," "Captain America: Civil War," "Zootopia," "The Jungle Book") and still has "Star Wars: Rogue One" coming in December.

"If you look at the track record of this year, there's definitely a correlation to the films that have broken out and become hits," said Dave Hollis, head of domestic distribution at Disney. "Each of (Disney's top performers) had Rotten Tomatoes scores in the 90 percent range, each of them had CinemaScores that were As. If you make something that has great story and huge scale and is ultimately living under the brand, the chances of having success are overwhelmingly higher."

Falling to second was J.K. Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," which earned US$65.8 million over the five-day weekend and US$45.1 million over the three-day weekend. The Harry Potter spinoff, from Warner Bros., has brought in US$156.2 million in two weeks. Overseas, "Fantastic Beasts," debuted in China, where its US$41.1 million fueled a weekend haul of US$132 million internationally.

Outpacing Star-Driven Films

Those two blockbusters far outpaced more star-driven films.

The Brad Pitt-Marion Cotillard World War II romance "Allied" opened with a mediocre US$18 million over five days. The Paramount Pictures release, directed by Robert Zemeckis, cost a hefty US$85 million to make. But for a proudly old-fashioned film built around the appeal of its stars, "Allied" had to largely do without Pitt's promotional presence. The actor's divorce proceedings from Angelina Jolie largely eclipsed the film, which drew an audience 85 percent over the age of 25.

"It played older and older audiences don't storm the theaters weekend one. I think they're going to take their time," said Kyle Davies, Paramount's head of domestic distribution. "There's not a big influx of new movies until you get closer to Christmas, so we think that's good for the playability of the picture."

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