Disney’s recent movie ‘Strange World’ was off to a terrible start and could possibly lose over $100 million. With $11.9 million from 4,174 North American theaters over the weekend and $18.6 million over the five-day holiday frame, Disney’s “Strange World” debuted dramatically behind expectations. The animated feature was expected to earn $30 million to $40 million between the five-day holiday frame before projections were revised downward. Even those figures would have been unspectacular to start.
In modern times, inaugural ticket sales for “Strange World” now register as one of Disney’s worst opening weekends arriving ever-so-slightly ahead of its pandemic-era release “West Side Story” with $10.5 million, and significantly behind fellow family films like “Encanto” with $27.2 million over the traditional weekend and $40 million during the extended Thanksgiving holiday stretch, and “Lightyear” with $51 million.
A senior Comscore analyst, Paul Dergarabedian said that “normally this time of year, a Disney family film is the big draw.” “It shows we’re still recovering and adapting to the constraints of the pandemic,” Dergarabedian added.
Sources estimate that “Strange World” will lose at least $100 million in its theatrical run unless its business rebounds dramatically in the next few weeks. But given the film’s moderate reviews, minimal buzz, and lackluster audience reception, that seems very unlikely.
It will be very difficult to get the big-budget film into the black, box office experts suggest, even with proper attention on Disney+ and home entertainment platforms. Sources say that the film needs to gross roughly $360 million to break even, as “Strange World” cost them $180 million to produce and tens of millions more in global marketing and distribution fees.
For “Lightyear,” which ended its theatrical run with $226 million worldwide, those levels were unattainable, as well as for “Encanto,” which ended its theatrical run with $256 million worldwide, despite the fact that those films notched bigger opening weekends.
It is believed by rival studios that “Strange World” will be lucky to hit $45 million by the end of its domestic run, as, for example, “Lightyear” generated $118 million in the states, while “Encanto” earned $96 million in North America.
David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, said that “this is a weak opening by Disney animation standards.”
“At a cost of $180 million, plus marketing expenses, the film will finish in the red, even with good ancillary income,” Gross added.
At the international box office, “Strange World” was similarly jilted with $9.2 million from 43 markets. Due to geopolitical tensions, “Strange World” won’t play in China or Russia, like most Hollywood films in the past few years.
And because the movie features a gay character, Disney decided to not submit “Strange World” to several smaller markets, such as the entire Middle East, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In those territories, films with LGBTQ references have been targeted regularly, and Disney was not willing to cut out parts of the movie to comply with their guidelines. The character also turned off most American movie-goers, as the poor numbers suggest.
But as every film that opened, including “Devotion,” or expanded nationwide – “The Fabelmans” and “Bones and All” – did not go well at the box office, it was a very weak Thanksgiving holiday for Hollywood overall.
But for Disney it was not all bad, as the studio’s Marvel adventure “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” filled over box office charts for the third weekend in a row, adding $64 million over the five-day stretch. In North America, the superhero sequel has grossed $367 million so far, and an impressive $675 million globally.
For Disney’s animated offerings, which have long been considered the gold standard, “Strange World” continues a bleak streak, yet the studio, which made Pixar movies like “Soul” and “Luca” available to watch on Disney+ during the pandemic, has not been able to properly reacquaint those audiences with theatrical releases.
The studio may have inadvertently made families get used to watching new movies on its popular streaming service in the comfort of their homes.