It was a wet and wild ride at the box office this past weekend as Disney’s Moana sailed to the top of the charts with $56.6 million from the three-day weekend, and $81.1 million from the holiday five-day weekend. This makes Moana the second largest Thanksgiving 5-day opening of all time, second only to Disney’s 2013 Frozen. On top of that the film pulled in $17.1 million from international markets like Chine, New Zealand, and Portugal.

This isn’t just great news for Moana itself, but also Disney of course as this now becomes their 9th film in the top ten five-day and three-day Thanksgiving openings. The only other film on either of those lists is New Line’s Four Christmas. Moana’s three-day opening is also the second largest opening for a Walt Disney Animation Studios premiere, trailing behind this year’s Zootopia by a mere $20 million.

Moana is a gorgeous film with bright colors, rich heritage, and charming and completely lovable characters. It’s the story of a young girl named Moana, the daughter of a Pacific Island Chief, who sets out on a journey that will take her far away from the only Island she has ever known so that she, along with the help of a demigod named Maui, can help restore balance and life to the ocean and save her people from the death and destruction that is consuming their home land.

This film is wonderful in almost every conceivable way, and yes, animated Disney princess films may not be your jam, but this film is really important. First, the film is set in a location that Disney has never ventured to before, dives into a lush and overflowing cultural heritage that has been greatly ignored or forgotten about for some time, and more over the film’s voice actors are for the most part all representative of this heritage and cultural identify. WHICH IS AWESOME! Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kubo and the Two Strings, but I was disappointed to see a film that was set in ancient Japan, borrowing from their lures, beliefs, and culture, have a completely white-washed cast. Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson and Matthew McConaughey were all wonderful and great, but it did leave something wanting. But then we have Moana, which boosts its racial diversity and proper representation and it’s just such a breath of fresh air to see. Guys, we need more movies like that!

On top of all of that this film is great because for the first time we have  Disney Princess that doesn’t need a romantic love interest by her side to either complete her or help her to become who she is destined to be. Arguably, Maui is just a sidekick. A fully fleshed out character for sure, but Moana is our hero, and the absence of a romantic subplot in this film was a true testament to the fact that woman don’t need to be someone’s love interest, or even need to be bothered with a love interest in order to save the day in cinematic storytelling. This is probably the number one reason why I liked this film more than I did with Frozen. Not that Frozen conformed to those ideas of needing a romantic interest, in fact they poked fun at them and tried to break the mold, but Moana fully without question did that. I personally can’t wait to have kids and, God-willing a little girl, that I can share this wonderful, beautiful story with about a strong, independent woman who was able to overcome fear and the unknown to be a hero.

If you haven’t gone to see this film yet, please do so. This is a fun film that appeals to a wide arrange of audiences, not just kids and families. If you’re open to it there is a lot we can all learn from this story and I honestly hope this is the first of many more films with stronger and stronger female characters, and evermore evident and intentional ethnic diversity.

Coming in second place this weekend was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which pulled in $45.1 million from the three-day holiday weekend, seeing only a 39.4% decline in ticket sales. That alone is impressive as this film should have performed 50%, maybe even pushing 60%, less than it did opening weekend, but it didn’t and this now makes it the second best second weekend performance for a Harry Potter universe based film since the very first Harry Potter film, the Philosopher’s Stone which released back in 2001.

Over the five-day weekend the film saw a $65.76 million performance bringing its domestic cume to over $156 million, and the film also brought in $132 million internationally this weekend in addition to all that. Fueling the international success of the film this weekend was a China-Japan premiere where the film brought in $40.8 million and $15.5 million respectively. For China Fantastic Beasts’ thee-day opening already surpasses the lifetime grosses of all other films in the J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World Franchise, all but for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 which had a lifetime run in China of $60.8 million. Globally the film’s current cume stands at $473.7 million ranking it the 13th among all of the 2016 releases.

Jumping down to spot #4 this week we find our second newcomer for the week, Robert Zemeckis’ Allied which managed to pull in $12.7 million from the three-day weekend. This isn’t great news for Zemeckis or the Studio in the slightest given the film carries an $85 million budget, only has a B rating on Cinemascore, and is currently sitting at a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes. For me after having seeing the film I’m not surprised in the slightest that the film only opened to $12 million. The film really never expanded much beyond the general premises and obvious conclusion that just about anyone could assume given its latest trailers, and this is a film that could have said a couple different things towards the end, but stumbled to make even a well thought out concluding thesis statement.

Allied is the story of two spies who fall in love while on assignment in Casablanca during World War 2, get married after their mission is completed, start to settle down when they return home, have a baby, and then have their lives turned upside down when Max, played by Brad Pitt, gets unsettling news that his wife, Marianne, played by Marion Cotillard, may not be who she says she is. Aside from the wonderful performances from Pitt and Cotillard because, like obviously, its Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel like these two talented actors were limited by the weak and rushed writing. I was intrigued up through the end of the first Act, was skeptical but on the edge of my seat for the second, but then completely put off by the third because this film literally offered nothing that the trailers hadn't already told me. And with such an obvious ending you could call it about 20 minutes into this 2 hour long forgettable war, period-piece, thriller, love story that is clearly just begging for an Oscar nomination.

I know that sounds quite decided and a bit mean, but seriously, this film could have been something and unfortunately it’s just going to be forgotten about by next week.

And getting a lump of coal for Christmas this year is Band Santa 2 because it’s got no money to pay the bills to keep the heat on this winter given a subpar opening weekend and little prospects of going up from here. The film landed at spot #7 with $6.1 million this weekend and though it was made on a $26 million budget, it wasn’t the worst performing film of the weekend.

That title belongs solely to Rules Don’t Apply which couldn’t even crack the top ten with a 12th place finish of $1.5 million from 2,382 theatres. This makes the Fox Searchlight film the sixth worst all time opening for any film opening in 2,000+ theatres. EVER. The major letdown that Rules Don’t Apply saw is largely to do with its lack of relevance for a modern day audience, and really, this film seems hard to get on board with given it reduces Howard Hughes to little more than a punch line after the beautiful and painful The Aviator from 2004. The film might have done better had the studio done a slow roll out release which is typical of similar type films this time of year, but clearly Fox’s disregard for the rules of low budget Oscar contender films didn’t pay off.

But looking ahead to next weekend we have the release of High Top’s Incarnate which is the story about an exorcist who enters the subconscious of the possessed to safe them. And I ask you, what’s scarier for a studio than a misplaced horror film in the midst of the holiday and Oscar season? I’d be surprised if this film cracks $10 million, and I might end up being surprised, but it looks a like a mainstream jump-scare thriller that no one will be talking about after this weekend.

If you want my opinion on a film to go see this weekend, continuing its expansion towards a nationwide release is Focus Features’ Loving which just played to 421 theatres this past weekend. Yes, this is a lower profile film that is currently still building up steam, but I just saw it this weekend and I can’t express enough how important this film is. It’s the hard, real, and inspiring true story of Richard and Mildred Loving who were an interracial couple from Virginia who after getting married were persecuted and ran out of the state by socially and lawfully enforced racism. Through their fight to overturn the laws throughout the country that prevented the marrying between races we get to see a beautifully sculpted story with some truly powerful performances and thought provoking takeaways. Honestly, with no hesitation, I could see this film going on to win Best Picture at the Oscars this year and I would fully stand behind that. I’m excited to get more into why this is such a great film in the coming weeks as it ups its theatre count, but for now, this is one I would HIGHLY recommend going to see this weekend.

That’s it for this week. We have a lot of wonderful cinema to go and see right now in theatres so don’t forget to go out and support your local film house this coming weekend so that you can join the conversation with us on Making Dollars and Sense at the Box office!

-Matthew Miller

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