With three weeks to go, Disney released its big family film for Christmas: Polynesia-set animation Moana. The seafaring adventure failed to dislodge Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, now in its third week. An opening gross of £2.21m (including previews of £33,000) seems rather modest for a Disney animation – Zootropolis kicked off in March with £5.31m, including £1.73m in previews.
In fairness, family films released in the run-up to Christmas tend to start rather gently, picking up steam when schools break up. That said, Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur began with £2.93m in the last weekend of November 2015 – 33% ahead of the Moana opening. The Good Dinosaur ended up with a lifetime tally of £15.15m, making it the lowest-grossing Pixar movie to date. Disney must be disappointed to have opened Moana even lower.
A factor here is likely to be the continuing strong performance of Fantastic Beasts, which added £4.49m in its third weekend, taking the 17-day tally to £37.9m. The JK Rowling-scripted blockbuster has overtaken the lifetime totals of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (£36.6m) and Captain America: Civil War (£36.9m), thus becoming the fifth biggest hit of 2016 so far, behind Bridget Jones’s Baby(£47.8m), The Jungle Book (£46.2m), Finding Dory (£42.8m) and Deadpool(£38.1m).
The runner-up: Sully
Warners UK executives may have wondered whether the story of US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger – who landed a plane on the Hudson River in 2009 after both his engines were disabled by a flock of geese – would resonate with UK cinemagoers. But selling points included director Clint Eastwood and star Tom Hanks, and Sully has opened solidly with £1.79m including £18,000 previews.
In the US, the film began in September with $35m, on its way to a total of $125m. An equivalent opening in the UK would be £3.5m, so Sully is not yet matching its US success.