Musicals ruled the top of the box office this weekend. While Disney’s animated Moana (with songs co-written by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda) took the No.1 spot for the third week in a row with an estimated $18.8 million, La La Land set the record for the year’s highest per-theater average. Opening in just five theaters, Damien Chazelle’s hotly anticipated (and very good) follow-up to Whiplash took in an average of $171,000 in each of them, the third-highest figure ever recorded for a live action film. La Land will expand to 200 theaters next week. But while Steve Jobs showed that a movie could have a great per-theater average in super-limited release but flop wide, it also didn’t have Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, a sublime centerpiece song, or an ending that somehow plunges viewers deeper into both artificiality and emotional reality.
Coming into a close No. 2, the seemingly temp-titled Office Christmas Party brought in around $17.5 million, while Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them found itself dropping to the No. 3 spot with $10.8 million. But let us not talk of such things. Instead, let’s focus on good and interesting movies making good amounts of money. Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi Arrival slipped down to No. 4 with $5.6 million, while Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals and Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea both entered the Top 10 in their fourth week of release. Nocturnal Animals took the No. 7 spot with $3.19 million, while Manchester By The Sea hit No. 8 with $3.16 million.
That puts the latter’s total at $8.3 million, which is big money for a long drama about grief-stricken Bay Staters whose main draw is an emotionally withdrawn lead performance. Eight weeks after it opened in very limited release, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight took the No. 18 spot, bringing it total gross up to $10.7 million. Pablo Larrain’s biographical drama Jackie added 21 theaters to its limited rollout, reaching the No. 19 spot with a $19,038 per-theater average that would normally be the best of a weekend, were it not for the juggernaut of La La Land. Meanwhile, the very charming Pete’s Dragon, which opened to lukewarm box office but excellent reviews, is now in its 18th week in theaters.
In less happy news (at least for film financiers), Miss Sloane stumbled it in wide release expansion; in making the jump from just four theaters to almost 1,650, the film made only $1.9 million, ending up at No. 11. Robert Zemeckis’ Allied (No. 6, $4 million) continued to underwhelm. The film, which cost $85 million to make and Lord knows how much to market, has only made $35 million in the United States to date, and even less in international release. Even in co-star Marion Cotillard’s native France, the film opened at No. 2, and was pummeled the next week by, among others, Sully, which just opened in that country.