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‘Coco’ Defeats ‘Justice League’ at the Box Office

DC’s super team movie couldn’t hold the top spot, even with a poor turnout for Pixar.
By  · Published on November 27th, 2017

DC couldn’t hold the #1 spot, even with a poor turnout for Pixar.

Pixar’s Coco topped the box office over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend with a five-day total of $72.9M, knocking Justice League ($70.6M) from the throne. This is only the second time an entry in the DC Extended Universe has failed to hold the number one spot in its second week, the first being Man of Steel in 2013. What defeated Superman’s return to the big screen then? Pixar again, with the sequel Monsters University — also World War Z.

It’s not uncommon these days for blockbusters to only reign a single weekend, though for superhero movies there’s a pattern. Installments of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises. This year, both Logan and Spider-Man: Homecoming were knocked down by apes — respectively by Kong: Skull Island and War for the Planet of the Apes. Neither of the Amazing Spider-Man movies were number one in their second weekend, and the only X-Men movies to hold the spot, of the 10 installments over 17 years, are X2: X-Men United and Deadpool.

DC has had better luck this century, with most of the DCEU and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy scoring more lasting triumphs. However, in addition to Justice League and Man of Steel, they’ve given up second-weekend honors with Green LanternSuperman Returns, and Watchmen. Marvel has a much better track record, though isn’t without its own one-weekend wonders: The Incredible HulkCaptain America: The First Avenger, and Guardians of the Galaxy, though Guardians returned to the top spot later and stayed there a few more weeks.

What’s interesting is that, unlike most superhero movies that fail to hold number one, Justice League didn’t have that severe a drop in its second weekend. Its non-holiday three-day total of $41.1M is just 56.6% down from its debut figure last weekend of $93.8M. Of course, that was a disappointing opening to begin with for such a big crossover tentpole title. Comparatively, Man of Steel had about the same second weekend gross at $41.3M, yet because it debuted with $116.6M, that was a 64.6% drop, worsened by the fact that it fell to third place on the chart.

Also interesting is the sad truth that Coco had one one of Pixar’s lowest openings and still managed to defeat Justice League. The original tribute to Mexican culture grossed just $50.8M for its non-holiday three-day bow, which with adjustments made for inflation make it the second-worst debut (not counting the soft openings of Toy Story 2 and A Bugs Life), behind The Good Dinosaur‘s $40.2M. That movie, which is among the worst-reviewed Pixar animated features, also opened over Thanksgiving, and its five-day total then was only $56.9M, adjusted.

The holiday release makes Coco difficult to compare to other Pixar and Disney animated movies, save for those others that opened around the same time. They include Pixar’s Toy Story ($80.2M, adjusted five-day total), Toy Story 2 ($140.8M), and A Bug’s Life ($87.1M), and Disney’s Frozen  ($100,1M), Tangled ($76.6M), and Moana ($82.1M). Can we compare others’ five-day totals without holidays? In that amount of time, Cars 3 only grossed $65.8M, but every other Pixar feature (besides The Good Dinosaur) bested Coco.

With an ‘A+’ grade from moviegoers via CinemaScore’s polling, Coco should have great word of mouth and make up for its relatively minor opening over time. Of course, Pixar and Disney animated features tend to do well in these first-day polls. Even The Good Dinosaur earned an ‘A.’ So did Cars 3. In fact, the worst grade Pixar has ever gotten through CinemaScore is the ‘A-‘ that went to Cars 2. Since CinemaScore started, Disney’s slate has received a lot of ‘A-‘ grades, nothing lower. But not all of them went the distance.

In good box office news, a few of this year’s big awards contenders are doing very well in minimal release. Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name opened to the best per-screen average of the year with $103.2K, passing Lady Bird‘s $93.9K. Its total debut gross, from four locations, was $412.9K, which was enough to rank it #14 on the box office chart. The number is still not nearly as great as the 2016 per-screen champ, La La Land, which made about $179K (adjusted) at each of its five locations, but it’s still very impressive.

Speaking of Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, which just passed Toy Story 2 for the record for best-reviewed movie of all time (100% on Rotten Tomatoes via 168 reviews) expanded into “wide” release over the weekend and nearly doubled its domestic gross. While it didn’t manage to crack the top 10, the fact that the movie has now made $10.7M and is still on fewer than 800 screens is pretty remarkable.

Meanwhile, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Roman J. Israel, Esq. also expanded this week, each of them entering the top 10 with $4.40M and $4.45M, respectively. The former, considered by many a frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars, made slightly more than Lady Bird on just 614 screens, giving it a total of $7.6M. One more awards hopeful, Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour made a fair limited-release bow with $175K.

Here is the top 14 for the weekend (new and expanding titles in bold):

1. Coco – $50.8M
2. Justice League – $41.1M
3. Wonder – $22.7M
4. Thor: Ragnarok – $16.9M
5. Daddy’s Home 2 – $13.22M
6. Murder on the Orient Express – $13.17M
7. The Star – $6.9M
8. A Bad Moms Christmas – $4.9M
9. Roman J. Israel, Esq. – $4.45M
10. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – $4.40M
11. Lady Bird – $4.1M
12. The Man Who Invented Christmas – $1.4M
13. Blade Runner 2049 – $0.5M
14. Call Me by Your Name – $0.4M

All box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.