Has the Week After Thanksgiving Always Been a Dead Zone for New Movies?

The short answer is not always but definitely lately

Leftovers rule the day after Thanksgiving, both in our kitchens and at our theaters. As we reluctantly consume our leftover turkey, ham and other assorted foods the Hollywood studios typically serve up the same movies as the week before, giving one and all a second chance to finally see the big new Thanksgiving movies we might have missed over the holiday. Plus, many of the awards contenders already playing in limited release expand into more theaters thus upping the chances for those in the flyover states to finally see what the cinephiles on the coasts have been raving about.

That’s just the way it is at this time of the year, Hollywood clearly recognizing that the week after Thanksgiving is not a good time for movies, not with everyone winding down from one holiday and gearing up for the next, i.e., Christmas. This year shall be no different since the coming weekend brings with it but one new wide release in the form of Blumhouse’s Incarnate, a micro-budget horror movie about an exorcist (Aaron Eckhart) taking on his most challenging case yet. Pre-release projections have Incarnate opening somewhere around $5m on the weekend, which would sink most movies but is perfectly reasonable for the Blumhouse micro-budget model. Everyone else is steering clear, yielding the weekend to leftovers.

Has it always been like this? Have the studios, which are constantly on the lookout for a prime opening on the release calender, always punted on the week after Thanksgiving? Surely someone has tried to capitlize on this opening, and surely there’s been nothing but failure for those who did thus explaining why the post-Thanksgiving period is now considered such a dead zone.

Actually, there have been more notable movies released the week after Thanksgiving than I would have guessed. According to BoxOfficeMojo, whose weekly records only go back as far as 1982, the following movies all dared to break the post-Thanksgiving curse:

1985Spies Like Us & Young Sherlock Holmes

1986Heartbreak Ridge

1988Naked Gun & Tequila Sunrise

1989 Christmas Vacation

1990Misery

1991Star Trek VI

1992The Distinguished Gentlemen

1994Trapped in Paradise

1996Daylight

1998Psycho

2001Behind Enemy Lines

2002Analyze That and Empire

2003The Last Samurai and Honey

2004Closer

2005Aeon Flux

2006The Nativity Story

2007Awake

2008Punisher: War Zone and Cadillac Records

2009Brothers, Armored and Everybody’s Fine

2010The Warrior’s Way

2012Killing Them Softly

2013 – Out of the Furnace

2014The Pyramid

2015Krampus

Of the 31 listed, 12 qualify as box office hits – Spies Like Us Heartbreak Ridge, Naked Gun, Tequila Sunrise, Christmas Vacation, Misery, Star Trek VI, Distinguished Gentlemen, Daylight, The Last Samurai, Closer and Krampus. That’s not a fantastic success rate, and it’s been even spottier in recent years, last year’s Krampus success notwithstanding. However, well, Forbes summited it up best:

If you make something that audiences want to see, and you make them aware that it exists and that it’s being taken seriously by the studio releasing it, audiences will show up no matter on what weekend it happens to drop. Audiences didn’t care when The Last Samurai opened, but rather that it was a big-budget Tom Cruise-fronted period piece action spectacular. As to the whole “why this matters” thing, it’s pretty simple.

We are getting to the point where we’re going to see something approaching year-round tentpole season. With several major studios all releasing a few (or several) would-be franchise titles over a 52-week year, because franchises dated in advance is what impresses stockholders and/or the media, we can ill afford to waste even one weekend. Every weekend of the year needs to be “safe” or “viable” either as a spot for a would-be franchise film to avoid another franchise film or a place where a studio programmer can flourish without sharing a date with an 800lbs gorilla.

Sources: Forbes, BoxOfficeMojo, THR

About Kelly Konda (1647 Articles)
Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

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