Disney's "Encanto," an animated film featuring music written by "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, is expected to have a $35 million domestic opening over the five-day holiday — enough to win the weekend. As for MGM's "House of Gucci," a true crime film starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, that film could slide into the No. 2 spot.
In order for theaters to truly recover, family films and films that aren't reboots, prequels or sequels are important to the box office. Both films this weekend are exclusive to theaters and could give a much needed box office jolt to theaters.
"To truly recover — to find their cinematic pulse — these genres will not only have to debut with better-than-expected numbers, but continue to sustain through the long holiday corridor," Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business. "For cinemas to truly rally, Hollywood needs multiple genres to pop, not just superheros saving the day."
Fun for the whole family
There have been plenty of family films this year, such as "The Boss Baby: Family Business," "Raya and the Last Dragon," "Tom and Jerry" and "Space Jam: A New Legacy," but none of those films were exclusive to theaters. "Encanto" will play in theaters for a month before hitting Disney+ around Christmas, which gives cinemas a great chance to rack up money before audiences can stay home and watch it.
Bock noted that over the years, Disney has released big family hits like "Frozen" and "Moana" over Thanksgiving, and while "Encanto" doesn't have the anticipation of those films, it could be "in competition for the top spot" this weekend.
Family films like "Encanto" could also get a boost since children can now get vaccinated in the US. If more children are vaccinated, parents may be more confident in taking kids out to theaters.
On the other end of the spectrum, a big weekend from "House of Gucci" could act as a rare success among adult dramas this year.
If you look at the top ten films of the year, eight of the ten are films either from a franchise, like "Black Widow," or a sequel, like "No Time to Die," with "Free Guy" and "Jungle Cruise" being the only two outliers.
As for films that don't have superheroes or 007 saving the world, many have not fared well this year at the box office.
Lady Gaga to save the day?
Buzzy adult dramas, such as "The Last Duel," "The Many Saints of Newark," "Last Night In Soho" and "Dear Evan Hansen," have all grossed less than $20 million domestically this year, according to Comscore.
Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business that audiences over the age of 35 have been "among the holdouts for a movie going return due to an abundance of caution relating to the pandemic" but "House of Gucci" could change that.
"A star-studded film like 'House of Gucci' looks to prove why the movie theater experience remains such an attractive and irreplaceable setting for such marquee movie events," he said. "This is the type of movie tailor made to get parents, aunts, uncles, and even young adults out after a big Thanksgiving meal."
While superhero movies are the focal point of Hollywood (and were before the pandemic), it's important for theaters to have variety. That includes family films like "Encanto" and films for an older demographic like "House of Gucci."
"Audiences are diverse and complex, and so too is the box office when it's firing on all cylinders," Robbins said. "Comic book films attract most of the attention, and they certainly are near the center of the industry's financial gravity, but a variety of content aimed at all demographics has always been and will always remain integral to the sustained success of the theatrical experience."