The five-day Thanksgiving weekend stretch — known as one of the biggest box office blocks of the year — will see Disney's "Encanto" battle Lady Gaga's "House of Gucci" as cinemas compete for moviegoers' attention, and hope to offset jitters associated with COVID-19.
Box Office Pro chief analyst Shawn Robbins told Yahoo Finance that consumers can expect more options than last year, but don't expect ticket sales to reach pre-pandemic levels just yet.
"This is certainly quite a turnaround from a year ago when very little was coming out and very few people were going to theaters, but we're also not quite back to the level of two years ago," the analyst said.
"Still, I think we're going to see a major shift this weekend," Robbins added.
"Encanto," set to run exclusively in theaters, is widely expected to come out on top, with Box Office Pro estimating that the film will attract upwards of $42 million over the three-day opening weekend.
Robbins said he believes vaccine availability for kids will play "a major role in parents decisions to take kids out to movies" although a full return will "still take time."
Still, rising COVID-19 infections is leading to some hesitancy among moviegoers. "I don't think it's everybody coming back at once, but this is part of the transition process of this recovery. I think we'll see the next big turning point over the holiday," Robbins added.
Following "Encanto," Box Office Pro estimates that the the heavily marketed "House of Gucci" will earn between $14 million - $19 million over the three-day weekend.
Still, the film — which cost a whopping $75 million to produce — has received mixed reviews, which could deter some consumers from venturing out to see it on the big screen.
"I do think reviews are important," Robbins said, although he noted that star power is equally important, citing the movie's all-star cast that also includes Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek and Al Pacino.
"These are names that still sell and I think Lady Gaga in particular is going to be really important to bring out that 18 to 35-year-old audience, but especially women around that age, and maybe even [older]," he explained.
Other flashy titles set to receive the holiday treatment this year include "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City."
Overall, Robbins cautioned that pandemic-era challenges will still persist, regardless of the films available.
"The risk is still the fact that the pandemic isn't over. There's a lot of pandemic fatigue," he said.
Streaming vs. box office
With Disney's "Encanto" set for an exclusive 30-day theatrical run, Robbin's hinted at a "new normal" in which the three-month theatrical window will disappear — replaced by an updated 45-day version.
This is a "major step for Disney" compared to the company's previous day-and-date release model, Robbins said. He added that it will be "a balancing act" for studios when deciding which films should go to streaming and which should play out at the box office.
"It's certainly become a more complicated calculation," he added.
Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193