Box Office Showdown: How ‘Krampus’ Managed to Beat Pixar

Krampus - Adam Scott

Source: Universal Pictures

The fall season marks the beginning of some of the year’s biggest box office battles. While most weeks in the summer months are dominated by single blockbusters, the latter part of the year typically features the year’s deepest field. Each studio saves its Oscar contenders for the fall, in hopes of having these films fresh on the minds of the Academy, right before it make its nominations. Knowing that, you couldn’t blame Pixar for picking a late November release date for The Good Dinosaur. 

Having already struck gold with Inside Out earlier this year, the animation studio was primed for a hit follow-up. Meanwhile, the only real competition for the attention of family audiences is the final Hunger Games movie, paving the way for another record-setting weekend for Pixar. What happened instead though was something none of us could have predicted. Yes, Mockingjay Part 2 led the box office for the second weekend in a row. But after being the predictable runner-up over Thanksgiving, The Good Dinosaur saw itself ousted out of that spot this last weekend by a surprising dark horse: Krampus. 

Based on the legendary Christmas demon by the same name, the film is the latest in a long line of holiday horror movies. None of its predecessors though have ever managed to win out at the box office over something as high profile as a Pixar release. Krampus‘s victory came in a weekend that saw The Good Dinosaur free-fall into a 60% drop in box office revenue, the highest second-week number Pixar’s seen since Cars 2. It’s not simply Pixar’s failure that set the table for Krampus to clean up. In a season light on holiday movies on heavy on Star Wars, Krampus couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

If you think about the movies releasing this holiday season, December boasts a crowded field. Star Wars alone is enough to get people to theaters, but when you figure in the release of a new Tarantino film, Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest Oscar try in The Revenant, and Will Smith in Concussion, there’s little room for Christmas-themed cinema. It’s why Seth Rogen’s holiday comedy The Night Before came out in November, and with no other Christmas competition to speak of, Krampus filled the holiday-sized hole in peoples’ hearts this last weekend.

On Pixar’s side, it may very well have hurt itself by releasing the stronger of its two films first in 2015. Inside Out is widely regarded as some of the studio’s best work ever, and because of that, the bar was set impossibly high for the decidedly underwhelming follow-up, The Good Dinosaur. The general consensus of “meh” surrounding Pixar’s second movie of the year is largely based around a drop-off in quality, and the fact that people would rather see a movie about an evil Christmas demon that eats children speaks volumes to this.

With The Force Awakens less than two weeks away, there’s a good chance this was Krampus‘s last weekend leading (most of) the pack. As it turns out, its release was wedged perfectly into fall: a week after Mockingjay Part 2, and two weeks before Star Wars. This was the least competitive weekend at the box office we’ll see for the rest of 2015, and Krampus took full advantage of that. Things are going to heat up at the box office soon, and it just so happened that a holiday horror flick snuck in right before that happens. Sorry, Pixar.

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