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Box office hits and misses: ‘Moana’ sinks ‘Office Christmas Party’ but ‘La La Land’ opens big

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana remained on top of the domestic box office for the third straight week, but it was a film that finished well outside the weekend’s top 10 movies that’s generating most of the buzz.

Disney’s animated feature narrowly edged out raunchy comedy Office Christmas Party to win the weekend, adding another $18.8 million to its impressive run both domestically and abroad. And yet, despite the respectable numbers from the weekend’s top two films, it was the weekend’s 15th-place finisher — director Damien Chazelle’s La La Land — that nearly set a new Hollywood record.

Chazelle’s follow-up to 2014’s Academy Award darling Whiplash, the musical La La Land premiered in just five theaters but raked in more than $855,000 from that limited opening. The film’s nearly unprecedented high per-theater average of $171,000 was the second-highest tally of all time for any film, coming in just behind the $202,000 per theater that The Grand Budapest Hotel earned in its first, limited screenings in 2014.

La La Land also had the highest per-theater average of any film released this year — a fact that bodes well for the movie’s upcoming expansion to more than 200 theaters December 16, then to even more locations December 25.

# Title Weekend U.S. Total Worldwide Total
1. Moana $18.8M $145M $238.8M
2. Office Christmas Party $17.5M $17.5M $33.9M
3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them $10.7M $199.3M $680M
4. Arrival $5.6M $81.4M $129.8M
5. Doctor Strange $4.6M $222.3M $645.7M
6. Allied $4M $35.6M $69.5M
7. Nocturnal Animals $3.2M $6.2M $16.2M
8. Manchester by the Sea $3.1M $8.3M $8.3M
9. Trolls $3.1M $145.4M $316.9M
10. Hacksaw Ridge $2.3M $60.8M $83.8M

Of the remaining movies in the week’s top 10 highest-grossing films, the Harry Potter prequel film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them added another $10.7 million in U.S. theaters but remained the top movie overall internationally for the fourth week in a row.

As for this upcoming week, the question is not whether Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will win the weekend, but how many records it will break in doing so. The Star Wars stand-alone film, which is set immediately before the events of 1977’s franchise-launching Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope and directed by Monsters and Godzilla filmmaker Gareth Edwards, arrives in theaters December 15 for preview screenings and is all but certain to be a massive blockbuster and the week’s top movie by a wide margin.