Two dishes cannibalized the long Thanksgiving holiday box office as tentpole holdover The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the new animated blockbuster Frozen dominated the attention and wallets of audiences selling a jaw-dropping $200M+ worth of tickets over the five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday period. They generated the two largest grosses ever seen for this holiday frame and accounted for two-thirds of all spending on all films this long weekend. Other new releases found it very hard to breathe and were left with scraps.
Retaining its position at number one for the second time, Catching Fire was red hot and held up better than other major book sequels have during this holiday weekend. The new Hunger Games movie collected an estimated $74.5M over three days (Friday-to-Sunday) and a gargantuan $110.2M over the five-day span. Both figures set new records for Thanksgiving beating the $57.5M and $82.4M of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from 2001 when the first wizard movie was in its second weekend. Ticket prices, of course, were lower back then. Fire’s cume after ten-plus days is a mammoth $296.5M. A domestic final close to the $408M of its predecessor is likely.
The new Games fell by 53% from its November record opening which was a remarkable hold since recent Twilight and Harry Potter films suffered 60-70% tumbles in the exact same situation. When Catching Fire opened last weekend amid deafening hype and grossed just a tick above the first film’s debut, it seemed disappointing since much more was expected. But those fans who didn’t make it out on the first weekend certainly came on the sophomore frame as the ten-day cume (including Thursday night shows before opening day) is the third highest in box office history trailing only The Avengers ($373.1M including 3D surcharges) and The Dark Knight ($313.8M).
Overseas where there has been more audience growth between the two installments, Catching Fire has caught $276.5M to date pushing the current global tally to a massive $573M. The pair of Katniss flicks have now grossed a stunning $1.26 billion worldwide with much more to come from the rest of Fire’s run plus two Mockingjay films set for release over the next two Novembers.
The other big juggernaut sucking up all the dollars and attention in the multiplexes was Disney’s newest animated feature Frozen which also enjoyed a record-breaking debut. The PG-rated film bowed to an estimated $66.7M over three days and $93M across five days with both figures breaking the records for largest Thanksgiving opening ever. The milestone had been held since 1999 by Toy Story 2 which captured $57.4M in three days and $80.1M in five days. Of course, higher ticket prices and 3D surcharges helped Elsa and Anna beat Woody and Buzz.
Disney often uses the turkey frame to launch a major kidpic but the results this time were beyond spectacular. The three-day take nearly matched the $68.7M five-day debut of the studio’s Tangled from 2010 which went on to a final gross that was three times its long weekend debut. Should Frozen play in a similar fashion – and several factors indicate that it will – the sister tale may just flirt with the $300M mark by the end of this holiday season. Playing in 3,742 locations, Frozen averaged a fantastic $17,828 per theater over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Add in five days of an exclusive run in L.A. with higher ticket prices and the cume is $93.4M.
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the well-reviewed toon a glowing A+ grade which indicates great buzz will carry this forward. And with virtually no competition until mid-January it will be the top choice for kids for weeks to come while word-of-mouth may broaden the audience over time too. Studio research showed that the crowd was 57% female, 58% 25 and under, and 81% families.
In its fourth weekend, Marvel super hero pic Thor: The Dark World collected an estimated $11.1M, off 22%, for a domestic haul of $186.7M surpassing the $181M of its 2011 predecessor. Disney’s worldwide tally climbed to an impressive $591.1M with $404.4M (68%) coming from outside of North America. Fellow sequel The Best Man Holiday slipped 32% to an estimated $8.5M bumping Universal’s cume to a solid $63.4M.
Fast & Furious 7 star Jason Statham’s latest offering Homefront debuted in fifth place with an estimated $7M from 2,570 locations for a weak $2,712 average. The five-day score for Open Road was $9.8M and the performance was close to the $7M non-holiday debut of the actor’s Parker from January. Vince Vaughn’s comedy Delivery Man held up well in its second weekend but still has brought in modest numbers. The Disney release slipped 13% to an estimated $6.9M for a $19.5M total after ten days.
A couple of new wide releases with mixed reviews followed with each taking a small slice of the overall Thanksgiving pie. The period drama The Book Thief expanded nationwide going from 70 to 1,234 sites and grossed an estimated $4.9M for a dull $3,930 average for Fox. The five-day gross was $6.4M and the cume is $7.9M. Black Nativity, the musical drama starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, and Mary J. Blige did not draw much of a crowd opening to an estimated $3.9M over three days and $5M over five. The PG-rated pic averaged a weak $2,559 from 1,516 theaters over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
The well-reviewed Judi Dench film Philomena went wide into 835 theaters (from 4) and found itself with an estimated $3.8M for a mediocre average of $4,538. The PG-13 (on appeal) film has banked $4.8M to date for The Weinstein Co. The CBS hit Last Vegas grossed an estimated $2.8M, down 36%, upping its sum to $58.7M.
Moviegoers had no interest in Spike Lee’s American remake of Oldboy which debuted to an estimated $850,000 from 583 sites for a pitiful $1,458 average. Reviews were not so great for the FilmDistrict release which had $1.3M in sales since its Wednesday launch. Opening such a dark story over a holiday weekend when audiences demand happy and cheery films was a big gamble from the day it got moved from its previous release date of October 25.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom had a promising start with an estimated $100,000 from only four theaters for a solid platform average of $25,077. Reviews were somewhat good for the film, but marks were stellar for Idris Elba’s acting performance as the South African leader.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $190M which was down 4% from last year’s Thanksgiving frame when tentpole The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 stayed at number one with $43.6M; but up 28% from 2011 when Breaking Dawn Part 1 remained in the top spot with $41.7M.