Coco upholds Disney’s Thanksgiving hot streak

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AH, THANKSGIVING traditions — turkey, football and a big Disney box-office debut.

Walt Disney Co. had the holiday weekend’s biggest new film for the third year in a row, this time with the critically acclaimed Coco.

The Pixar animated movie, which centers on Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday, placed first in theaters in the US and Canada, garnering an estimated $49 million from Friday to Sunday, ComScore, Inc. said in an e-mail Sunday. That missed a forecast by Box Office Pro for a haul of $51 million over the three days. Including Wednesday and Thursday, the movie took in $71.2 million, beating the studio’s expectation for a five-day total of $55 million to $60 million.

“Great stories can come from all over the world and be relatable,” said Dave Hollis, global head of distribution for Disney.

Worldwide, the movie has gained $153.4 million in ticket sales, Disney said.

In China, Coco generated $18.2 million, the second-highest opening ever for a Pixar or Disney animated release. That shows the film’s “universal appeal,” Mr. Hollis said. “Pixar has delivered yet again.”

The well-reviewed film adds to a long run of family-friendly Disney fare to entice audiences out of their turkey comas, from 1999’s Toy Story 2 to 2013’s Frozen. Last year, Moana topped the charts. The Good Dinosaur was the weekend’s biggest debut in 2015, though it placed second to the already-released The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2.

This year, the competition wasn’t as tough for Disney. Warner Bros.’ critically panned superhero offering Justice League placed second with $40.7 million over three days, falling 57% from its debut last week. It was forecast to earn $42.2 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s drama Wonder returned in third place with $22.3 million, beating a three-day forecast of $21.5 million.

The win by Coco offered Burbank, California-based Disney some solace after a troubling week. John Lasseter, an executive producer on the film and the chief creative officer for both Disney Animation and Pixar, said on Nov. 21 he would take a leave of absence after the Hollywood Reporter and other outlets cited coworkers who accused him of unwanted touching and hugs.

Disney’s biggest Thanksgiving debut ever was Frozen, which earned $67.4 million from Friday to Sunday and $93.6 million for the full five days in 2013, according to ComScore. That year was the biggest Thanksgiving weekend ever for Hollywood, with Hunger Games: Catching Fire also helping generate $294.2 million over five days.

In Coco, a Mexican boy named Miguel yearns to be a guitarist like his matinee idol but his family has a generations-old ban on music. In a bid to prove his talent, he winds up in the colorful Land of the Dead and makes friends with a resident, the spirit of a Mexican musician named Hector. Miguel goes on a journey to discover the truth behind his family’s unusual history. Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt are among the actors providing voices.

The film scored 93% positive reviews from top critics, a marked improvement from Cars 3, the last Pixar offering. Disney didn’t disclose the cost of making Coco. — Bloomberg