Disney used to own the Thanksgiving box office. ‘Wish’ is trying to win it back

Amidst hopes for a cinematic renaissance, Disney is pinning its aspirations on the 100th-anniversary film, “Wish,” with the anticipation that it will serve as a catalyst for rejuvenating its animation division and kickstarting a Thanksgiving box office revival.

While 2019 marked a pinnacle for Disney at the box office, with an unprecedented seven films surpassing $1 billion in global ticket sales, the post-pandemic landscape has posed challenges in recapturing that enchantment, even as Covid restrictions eased and moviegoers returned to theaters. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, a cornerstone of Disney’s success, has encountered mixed reactions, exemplified by “The Marvels” opening to an all-time franchise low.

However, it is Disney’s animation arm, traditionally a powerhouse at the box office, that has faced setbacks in recent years. Executive decisions to bolster the Disney+ streaming service with a plethora of content have stretched creative teams thin, leading to a divergence from the traditional theatrical release model. Animated features from both Walt Disney Animation and Pixar have experienced a mix of lukewarm receptions, further compounded by confusion among parents regarding release schedules.

The Thanksgiving holiday, once a stronghold for Disney at the box office, has seen a decline in the studio’s dominance. The week of Thanksgiving, historically robust for cinema, has generated over $250 million in ticket sales annually over the past decade (excluding 2020, 2021, and 2022). Disney’s animation hits were a significant contributor to these successful weekends, along with Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games” films.

As Disney faces a feast-or-famine scenario in its animation division, the success of “Wish” becomes pivotal not only for the studio’s present box office standing but also as a potential turning point for re-establishing its dominance during the crucial Thanksgiving period. The studio’s struggles underscore the evolving dynamics in the film industry, where balancing streaming service commitments and theatrical releases poses a delicate challenge, with Disney navigating this intricate landscape in pursuit of a cinematic revival. Disney has refrained from commenting on its current challenges and strategies.