There are some truisms in the world of release date strategy. One of them is that November will almost always have two animated releases. This year, the two offerings are TROLLS BAND TOGETHER and WISH.
Furthermore, one animated film – usually a Disney title – is released on Thanksgiving weekend, while the other typically opens three weeks earlier on the first weekend of November. That allows for some nice separation between the two.
The table below shows, year by year when each animated film opened. Between 2009 and 2016, the pattern of one animated film on the first weekend of November and another on Thanksgiving held true. 2011 was the only year in that span to abandon that pattern.
Things began to change after that. In 2017, COCO was the only animated film in November. The following year, RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET held down the Thanksgiving spot, but THE GRINCH opted for the 2nd weekend in November, shrinking the window between the films to two weeks.
In 2019, FROZEN II opened the week before Thanksgiving. Given how huge the first one was, other studios opted to steer clear of the sequel. And in the two pandemic-era years of 2021 and 2022, audiences got just one animated film on Thanksgiving.
Alas, this year, we have the return of the duel animated films with TROLLS BAND TOGETHER and WISH. But unlike November’s past, the two films are opening back-to-back. In fact, with WISH opening on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the space between the two films is only five days.
Why did Universal choose to open TROLLS so close to WISH? In 2016, the first TROLLS movie opened to a healthy $47M on the first weekend of November. Why tinker with what’s worked in the past? Plus, there’s little downside to opening early in the month. Nearly all those first-week films were still in the top 5 by the time Thanksgiving rolled around. Not only do they get to be the only animated movie for a few weeks, but they also benefit from the holiday bump.
With that in mind, let’s look at the tracking. As always, let’s start with awareness. Since The Quorum began tracking the two films, awareness for TROLLS has been higher than WISH. That’s not entirely surprising, given that TROLLS is a sequel with a built-in audience, and WISH is an original.
Over the past few months, awareness for TROLLS was about 15 points higher than WISH. The gap stretched as wide as 20 points a few months ago. But over the last 30 days, the gap has shrunk. Today, awareness for WISH is only 6 points lower than TROLLS, thanks to an explosive 11-point surge. Over the past month, TROLLS has gained 7 points and appears to be stalled at 47%.
While TROLLS has had the lead in awareness, WISH has been the frontrunner when it comes to interest. Throughout its run, WISH has remained 3 to 4 points higher than TROLLS. Like we saw with awareness, WISH is surging ahead. The gap between the two films is now 6 points.
Curiously, the scores for the two films are identical but flipped across the two metrics. TROLLS has 47% awareness and 41% interest. WISH has 41% interest and 47% awareness.
At the moment, you could argue that the two films are on equal footing – that their box office prospects are about the same. Perhaps, but WISH has momentum on its side. That is reflected in The Quorum’sQuorum’s opening weekend forecasts. Subscribers to The Quorum know that we provide weekly forecasts once a film enters the six-week out window. The projection for TROLLS has been sliding down, while the estimate for WISH has been rising.
Just how much has WISH improved? In late September, we compared WISH to ENCANTO and STRANGE WORLD – Disney’sDisney’s last two Thanksgiving releases. At the time, WISH was behind ENCANTO and in line with STRANGE. Now, look where things stand.
WISH (dark yellow) has sprinted past ENCANTO (brown) and STRANGE (light yellow). Back on September 21st, WISH was tucked in between the two.
The same thing has happened on the interest side. In September, WISH (dark blue) was tied with STRANGE (light blue) and behind ENCANTO (black). Not anymore. WISH has vaulted to the lead.
The success of WISH highlights an important lesson in tracking. The numbers we report on The Quorum represent a moment in time. Five weeks ago, WISH didn’t look so great. Today, it seems much healthier. Tracking takes the mystery out of knowing if a campaign is connecting or not. Getting ahead of it when there is time to course correct is far more preferable than being surprised in the 11th hour.
We would love to see both TROLLS and WISH succeed. But if WISH, in particular, works at the box office, it will be a credit to the Disney team for turning things around.