Weekend Box Office (November 22 - 24, 2013)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Eliminating its foes and setting records in the process, the hotly-anticipated tentpole The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened to staggering results atop the box office with explosive grosses worldwide. In North America, the Katniss sequel debuted to $158.1M, according to final studio figures, making it the second largest debut of the year and the sixth biggest of all-time. The only stronger films were a trio of 3D pics - The Avengers with $207.4M, this year's Iron Man 3 with $174.1M, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 with $169.2M - plus the last two Batman movies, The Dark Knight Rises with $160.9M and The Dark Knight with $158.4M.

The final gross was $3M below the Sunday estimate of $161.1M. Playing in 4,163 theaters - a new record for a non-summer release - the PG-13 pic averaged a scorching $37,971. The gross was 4% better than the $152.5M launch of the first Hunger Games movie a year and a half ago. Catching Fire easily set new all-time highs for both November and non-summer debuts beating the $142.8M of The Twilight Saga: A New Moon set in 2009.

What was truly remarkable about the new Hunger flick was how it held up on Saturday. Its decline from opening day was virtually the same as for its predecessor which was amazing considering how Fire is a sequel and also had an earlier start with shows beginning at 8:00pm on Thursday night instead of midnight for the first Panem pic. Fire was expected to be more front-loaded and have a larger Saturday fall.

The fireworks began with the official Friday opening day gross of $71M including $25.3M from Thursday night shows. Saturday dipped 26% to $52.6M while Sunday fell 34% to $34.5M. The first Hunger Games fell 25% Saturday then 31% on Sunday although that was a March release when there was no NFL football that day. A deep freeze across the northeast and midwest on Sunday may also have impacted the entire moviegoing landscape. Many industry observers were expecting an even larger debut north of $170M, however regardless of expectations, this tentpole delivered sensational results and will certainly be a profitable venture.

Book franchises work in mysterious ways. The second Twilight opened in November a year after the first and saw twice as much business on opening weekend. But Hunger Games seems to be performing more like the Harry Potter series. The first wizard pic broke the all-time opening weekend record and then its follow-up one year later opened a tiny bit below it. Fans made a mad rush to see the debut film and then attendance dipped a notch on the second installment. For Fire, it inched up a tad but was basically in the same neighborhood. Reviews for Fire were terrific with most major critics finding it better than its predecessor. Audiences liked what they paid for as the CinemaScore grade was an A just like last time.

Like most 2D and 3D tentpoles, Catching Fire had an IMAX version which was quite popular with hard-core fans willing to pay a premium for a better experience. $12.6M of the gross (8%) came from those large-format screens setting a new three-day opening record in November edging out the $12.5M from last year's Skyfall. Worldwide IMAX grosses stand at more than $18M. Studio research showed that the new Hunger Games played 59% female and those over and under 25 were evenly split.

Overseas, Catching Fire rolled out across 62 territories this weekend grossing a sensational $146.6M including the first full week in Brazil which opened a week earlier. Lionsgate reported that it more than doubled the first movie's openings in most major territories. The global tally sits at $305M and the smash hit could crush the half-billion mark after next weekend.

Far back in second place with $14.2M was the comic hit Thor: The Dark World which tumbled 61% due to competition from another event sequel (and Hemsworth lad). The Disney release has grossed $167.9M so far in North America and $549M worldwide. China still leads the international marketplace with $48.3M and Japan is the final major market still to open.

Yet another November sequel followed. The Best Man Holiday fell 59% in its second weekend to $12.5M lifting the cume to $50.4M. Despite the A+ Cinemascore, the Universal release played like a sequel with a built-in audience and dropped sharply. A final near the $75-80M range could result and a third film in the series is being developed.

Stating once again that they will not pay money to see Vince Vaughn do the same character for the 25th time, audiences rejected the actor's latest effort Delivery Man which opened in fourth with a lousy $7.9M. Averaging a wimpy $2,617 from 3,036 locations, the PG-13 film about a man whose sperm donations helped create 533 children followed the disappointing $17.3M bow of Vaughn's The Internship from last summer as well as the $12.8M of his previous film The Watch. Although the funnyman anchored five hits opening to $30M+ between 2004 and 2009, he has not had any hits in four years now. Reviews were weak.

Relativity's toon Free Birds grossed $5.4M, down 34%, for a $48.7M total. The comedy Last Vegas witnessed its biggest drop yet sliding 48% in its fourth frame to $4.4M with $53.9M to date for CBS Films.

Getting to within striking distance of the century club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa fell 54% to $3.4M giving Paramount $95.4M so far. The Sandra Bullock megahit Gravity placed eighth with $3.2M, down 47% in its eighth round, for a domestic take of $245.4M. A massive $34.8M China opening over six days propelled the overseas total to $331.2M and the global tally to a sensational $577M.

Two potential Oscar contenders rounded out the top ten. Fox Searchlight's 12 Years A Slave slipped 39% to $2.8M and has banked $29.4M to date. Focus expanded its Matthew McConaughey drama Dallas Buyers Club from 184 to 666 locations and collected $2.7M as well for a lukewarm $4,035 average and $6.4M total.

In a special exclusive engagement at one Disney-owned L.A. theater, the studio's animated feature Frozen got off to an explosive start grossing a phenomenal $243,390 this weekend from the solo venue in a run leading up to Wednesday's nationwide release in over 3,600 theaters. The exclusive event featured special bonuses for moviegoers and tickets were priced between $13 for just the film for kids to $51 for a VIP package that included breakfast, popcorn, soda, reserved seating and no waiting in line. Several Disney toons in the past started with a very limited platform run including The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.

The top ten films grossed $214.6M which was down 11% from last year's pre-Thanksgiving frame when tentpole The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 opened at number one with $141.1M; but up 1% from 2011 when Breaking Dawn Part 1 debuted in the top spot with $138.1M.

Compared to projections, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened below my $180M forecast and Delivery Man also came in under my $11M prediction.

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Watch the NEW trailer for The Wind Rises.

For a NEW review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's long Thanksgiving session when Frozen, Black Nativity, Oldboy, and Homefront all open.

# Title Nov 22 - 24 Nov 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire $ 158,074,286 4,163 1 $ 37,971 $ 158,074,286 Lionsgate
2 Thor: The Dark World 14,196,302 36,586,016 -61.2 3,713 3 3,823 167,917,123 Disney
3 The Best Man Holiday 12,490,920 30,107,555 -58.5 2,041 2 6,120 50,360,510 Universal
4 Delivery Man 7,944,977 3,036 1 2,617 7,944,977 Disney
5 Free Birds 5,363,208 8,106,151 -33.8 3,071 4 1,746 48,657,073 Relativity
6 Last Vegas 4,359,075 8,439,544 -48.3 2,926 4 1,490 53,884,824 CBS
7 Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa 3,433,864 7,421,536 -53.7 2,625 5 1,308 95,434,629 Paramount
8 Gravity 3,210,155 6,104,096 -47.4 1,845 8 1,740 245,407,759 Warner Bros.
9 12 Years A Slave 2,833,635 4,604,706 -38.5 1,474 6 1,922 29,426,947 Fox Searchlight
10 Dallas Buyers Club 2,687,157 1,751,359 53.4 666 4 4,035 6,374,058 Focus
11 Ender's Game 1,977,106 6,017,337 -67.1 2,035 4 972 57,195,579 Lionsgate
12 Captain Phillips 1,821,366 4,385,218 -58.5 1,656 7 1,100 100,705,834 Sony
13 About Time 1,249,500 3,340,625 -62.6 1,050 4 1,190 13,822,558 Universal
14 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 862,893 1,975,559 -56.3 1,121 9 770 114,228,318 Sony
15 The Christmas Candle 832,927 68,655 392 2 2,125 912,908 Echolight
16 The Book Thief 609,652 420,532 45.0 70 3 8,709 1,307,512 Fox
17 Ram Leela 467,546 1,449,174 -67.7 204 2 2,292 2,269,358 Eros
18 All is Lost 359,453 916,145 -60.8 336 6 1,070 4,940,291 Roadside Attr.
19 Despicable Me 2 343,695 417,850 -17.7 295 21 1,165 366,375,650 Universal
20 Nebraska 325,755 140,401 132.0 28 2 11,634 515,368 Paramount
Top 5 $ 198,069,693 $ 90,660,802 118.5
Top 10 214,593,579 115,112,784 86.4
Top 20 223,443,472 124,008,330 80.2
Top 20 vs. Pre-Thanksgiving 2012 223,443,472 246,536,218 -9.4

Last Updated: November 25, 2013 at 9:30PM ET

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