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Thanksgiving weekend at the box office was the biggest in history

Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II topped a record-breaking weekend at the movies.

Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II
Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II were tops at a monster Thanksgiving weekend box office.
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Thanksgiving weekend is a prime moviegoing time for Americans, many of whom have an extra-long weekend away from work and a lot of spare family time on their hands. And this year, those factors — plus a plethora of good movies on offer — added up to some record numbers.

The Thanksgiving weekend box office covers five days, from the Wednesday before the holiday through the Sunday after it. In 2018, the Friday through Sunday after Thanksgiving brought in so much money that it was the biggest in history, with reporting that the top 12 films netted over $206 million.

The biggest movie of the weekend was Ralph Breaks the Internet, Disney’s follow-up to its popular 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph, with voice acting from an all-star cast led by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. It earned $84.5 million over the five days, the second biggest five-day Thanksgiving gross of all time. Its success was somewhat expected: Ralph brought in strong critical reviews, and it’s the kind of family-friendly animated film with a strong storyline and clever humor that appeals to both children and adults.

Ralph Breaks the Internet
Ralph Breaks the Internet broke the box office this weekend.

Creed II, the latest film in the Rocky franchise and the follow-up to 2015’s Creed, also broke a record; it brought in $55.8 million, the largest holiday opening ever for a live-action film. Directed by newcomer Steven Caple Jr. and written by Sylvester Stallone, the film was executive produced by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler (who directed the 2015 installment) and stars Michael B. Jordan, Stallone, and Tessa Thompson, among others. The movie also garnered an “A” Cinemascore — a great indicator that the film will have strong word of mouth going forward.

Other big films over the weekend included Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which was in its second weekend, and The Grinch, which continues to perform so well that it’s now in the top 10 films domestically. Bohemian Rhapsody hung onto the #5 spot in the US, while Instant Family, Robin Hood, Green Book, Widows, and A Star Is Born filled out the top 10 releases.

It was a big weekend at art house cinemas, too, where The Favourite, the darkly comedic tale of palace intrigue starring Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman opened in four theaters, two in Los Angeles and two in New York. The film ended up making $420,000, which means its per-theater average was $105,000 — the best in 2018, and one of the top 25 opening averages of all time.

All of these numbers added up to a huge opening weekend, and that’s been a trend this year: October was also a record-breaking month at the movies. And if the trend continues, this year may be Hollywood’s biggest ever: Right now 2018’s gross box office is on track to beat that of 2016, the biggest year on record.

So while theaters still struggle to figure out how to stay afloat, the news at the box office continues to give reason for cautious optimism. There are a variety of factors contributing to box office success, from the relatively high cost of movie tickets to the high number of films that are in theaters, giving people a lot of variety to choose from. And there’s the fact that Americans tend to show up to the movies — still a relatively low-cost form of entertainment — in times of trouble.

But whatever the reason, the next few weeks, which will see the release of nostalgia-heavy family movies like Mary Poppins Returns and prestige dramas like If Beale Street Could Talk, will be decisive in determining whether 2018 will be the biggest year ever at the movies.

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