'Moana' reigns, 'La La Land' sings in limited release

"Moana" came in first with $18.8 million this weekend.

Disney via AP
This image released by Disney shows Moana, voiced by Auli'i Cravalho, in a scene from the animated film, "Moana."

Disney's "Moana" has continued to sit pretty atop the box office for its third consecutive weekend, but Damien Chazelle's musical "La La Land" was what really had audiences singing this weekend.

Playing in only five theaters, the lively and well-reviewed "La La Land" grossed a staggering $855,000 for Lionsgate, according to studio estimates Sunday. Its $171,000 per theater average is an all-time high for a 5-theater release and for 2016 in general.

According to exit polls, 52 percent of audiences were female and 53 percent were over age 30.

"We felt like we were going to have a strong opening, but I don't think anyone would have predicted a result this big," said David Spitz, Lionsgate's President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution.

The film cost a reported $30 million to make and has been gaining buzz throughout the fall since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival and continued wowing critics and audiences at various other festivals. It recently picked up the best picture award from the New York Film Critics Circle and is expected to be a major awards contender this year. Its first big mainstream boost could come as early as Monday when nominations are announced for the Golden Globe awards

Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, "La La Land" expands to 200 locations next week.

Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for box office tracker comScore, called the "La La Land" showing "astounding."

"This is the hottest ticket in town and now people want to be able to talk about the movie. The availability is quite limited but that will result in a crescendo," he said. "This is a movie that is tailor made for that platform release ... (it) is a real breath of fresh air and I think it's going to take off for many reasons."

It was mostly business as usual among wide releases, with "Moana" in first with $18.8 million, followed by the Jennifer Aniston comedy "Office Christmas Party," which debuted to $17.5 million — a quiet moment before "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" opens next weekend.

The rest of the top five looked similar to the past few weeks, with the Harry Potter spinoff "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" in third with $10.8 million, bringing its domestic grosses to $199.3 million. The Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner sci-fi pic "Arrival" held on in fourth with $5.6 million, while Disney and Marvel's "Doctor Strange" added $4.6 million to take fifth place.

The Jessica Chastain lobbying thriller "Miss Sloane," meanwhile, fizzled in its wide expansion earning $1.9 million from 1,648 locations.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1."Moana," $18.8 million.

2."Office Christmas Party," $17.5 million.

3."Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," $10.8 million.

4."Arrival," $5.6 million.

5."Doctor Strange," $4.6 million.

6."Allied," $4 million.

7."Nocturnal Animals," $3.2 million.

8."Manchester by the Sea," $3.2 million.

9."Trolls," $3.1 million.

10."Hacksaw Ridge," $2.3 million.

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