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Disney's 'Wish' delivers another box office blow: 'Excitement just wasn't there'

Disney (DIS) did not see its wish come true at the box office this Thanksgiving.

The media giant's animated film "Wish" lagged both Apple's (AAPL) "Napoleon" and Lionsgate's "Hunger Games" prequel, "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," this past holiday weekend, securing just $31.7 million over the five-day period. Box office analysts had expected a haul between $40 million and $50 million.

The disappointing debut comes after Disney just saw its latest Marvel film bomb as CEO Bob Iger attempts to revamp the company's film division.

The stock was down about 1% on Monday, lagging the broader markets.

"The numbers on ["Wish"] were really low — even by Disney standards and Thanksgiving standards," Gitesh Pandya, founder and editor at Box Office Guru, told Yahoo Finance.

Iger recently said that one of Disney's "key building opportunities" includes "the need to strengthen the creative output of our film studio."

He explained on the company's earnings call earlier this month: "To achieve this we are focusing heavily on the core brands and franchises that fuel all of our businesses and reducing output overall to enable us to concentrate on fewer projects and improve quality, while continuing our effort around the creation of fresh and compelling original IP."

Pandya said Disney's box office strategy will need to focus on more "exciting" films, especially as consumer choice widens amid the streaming boom.

"People have tremendous options at home," he said. "One of the things consumers are thinking about is, 'Do I need to spend $60 to $70 as a family in a movie theater right now?' 'Or can I wait for Disney+ later?' That's something which 'Wish' didn't have — they tried all the marketing, but the excitement just wasn't there. "

Read more: The best credit cards to save money on your next Disney vacation

Competition has also escalated, particularly within the animation space, as NBCUniversal (CMCSA) and Sony (SONY) debuted strong titles this year — including the $1 billion "Super Mario Bros. Movie" and "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse."

Universal's "Trolls" sequel "Trolls Band Together" pulled in almost the same numbers as "Wish" over the five-day holiday — despite debuting one week earlier.

Disney, historically a leader in animation, has failed to measure up in recent years.

Last summer, Pixar's "Toy Story" prequel "Lightyear" fell short of analyst expectations, producing just $51 million in its domestic debut before going on to gross a mere $118 million in theaters ahead of an expedited Disney+ release.

More recently, the animated film "Strange World," starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid, cost the company a reported $200 million after it opened to dismal reviews during last year's Thanksgiving period. It was one of the worst flops of 2022.

Industry watchers blamed the misses on poor marketing plans and audience confusion over which titles were theatrical exclusives and which were streaming-only releases on the company's Disney+ platform.

Doug Creutz, analyst at TD Cowen, told Yahoo Finance that demand for animation "has definitely gone down" post-pandemic, driven by the excess of kids content on streaming platforms.

"The only animated films that have done well since the pandemic have been big sequels. ... Disney's pipeline didn't have any sequels in it," he said.

He added that the journey to recover won't be easy.

"I don't think the studio is going to be an engine that's going to help Disney grow for the next 18 months," Creutz said. "I don't think it's going to get worse, but I don't think it's going to get better either."

Disney's animated film
Disney's animated film "Wish" underperformed at the box office over Thanksgiving Day weekend (Courtesy: Disney)

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com.

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