Weekend Box Office (November 28 - 30, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND For the sixth consecutive year, the Thanksgiving holiday session was ruled by a leftover literary-based sequel as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 remained at number one with $57M in ticket sales over the Friday-to-Sunday span, according to final studio figures. Across the five-day weekend from Wednesday-to-Sunday, the latest Katniss adventure amassed a stellar $82.7M. New releases did not come close to reaching these heights.

Looking at the most obvious comp - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which was released this same way last year - Mockingjay is eroding at the same rate. Both fell by 53% on the second weekend which was the turkey frame. Given the new film's smaller opening weekend and harsher fan feedback, having the same drop is a win. Threequels tend to fade faster. Mockingjay opened 23% below Fire and the ten-day cume of $225.7M is 24% behind so it is still playing out in similar fashion. Fire stood at a towering $296.3M at this same point in its release.

But the Panem franchise sets a high bar. Overall, Mockingjay enjoyed the third largest five-day Thanksgiving feast in history beating out the many Twilight and Harry Potter films that were released in mid-November. The only movies to ever gobble up larger slices of the holiday pie were last year's awesome twosome - Catching Fire with $109.9M and Frozen's opening of $93.6M. So though weaker, Mockingjay still attracted terrific business for Lionsgate. Should it continue to follow Fire's trajectory over the coming weeks, it would finish its domestic run in the vicinity of $320M which would mean it would not surpass Guardians of the Galaxy to become 2014's biggest hit. Marvel's super hero squad stands at $331.9M and is still in the Top 20 in its 18th weekend.

Overseas markets are healthy with an additional $67M this weekend boosting the international cume to $254.4M for a worldwide sum of $480M. While domestic is 24% behind Fire, the global take is only 16% lower as markets around the world are not losing as many fans this time around as the U.S. is. U.K. leads with $32.8M.

DreamWorks Animation suffered another setback as its latest offering - and third this year - Penguins of Madagascar opened to mild results in second place with $25.4M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The PG-rated spinoff collected $35.4M over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday span. The three-day period averaged $6,761 from 3,764 locations with the comical bird team generating only the sixth best toon opening of 2014. Debuting better this year were The LEGO Movie, Big Hero 6, How To Train Your Dragon 2, Rio 2, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman - and none of them had holiday help.

Reviews were fairly good for Penguins and the only major competitor in the top ten was Disney's Hero which has enjoyed good legs. The Thanksgiving marketplace usually expands to accommodate multiple toons - if paying audiences are actually excited about them. But for Penguins, the five-day gross was weaker than the three-day openings for every past Madagascar film (the last two bowed to $60M+). Granted, top stars like Ben Stiller and Chris Rock were not part of this new installment, but most films from DreamWorks Animation do better. 13 of their last 15 films opened higher than Penguins.

The new offering did, however, perform somewhat better than the studio's Rise of the Guardians which also launched over Thanksgiving weekend. Penguins opened 10% better than Rise which two years ago signaled problems for DreamWorks. It has three more animated films on the calendar for 2015 which will continue to test the demands of the public. Families may not need this much content.

Penguins had broad appeal as the audience skewed 51% female according to distributor Fox. 58% were over 25, 52% were non-white, and the CinemaScore grade was a good A-. 3D screens accounted for 24% of the gross which is fairly normal for a toon. With $36M from 44 overseas markets, the global cume for Penguins stands at $72M.

Families were still interested in the buzzworthy Disney toon Big Hero 6 which collected $18.8M in its fourth weekend, off just 7%. With $167.2M so far, it is running 12% ahead of the pace of the studio's Wreck-it Ralph from this time two years ago and may finish with around $210M. The global tally currently stands at $224.1M with most major markets not open yet.

Christopher Nolan's sci-fi thriller Interstellar inched up 3% from last weekend and grossed $15.7M in its fourth round. Paramount has banked a strong $147M to date and looks headed for a finish in the $180-190M range from North America. The space flick has done exceptionally well on IMAX screens where it has grossed a stellar $91M worldwide to date which already is fourth best in company history with more cash to come.

Overseas markets are still rocking with a $44.4M weekend pushing the international cume up to $395.2M for Warner Bros. for a global tally of $542M. China crossed the century mark this weekend with $106M to date while Korea has also been a standout with $61M with European territories far behind. Breaking $700M worldwide is possible.

Continuing the bad year for R-rated comedies, Horrible Bosses 2 landed in fifth place with an opening of $15.5M over three days and $22.8M since its Wednesday launch. The weak results saw the five-day holiday opening fall below the $28.3M three-day non-holiday launch of its 2011 predecessor. That film was a surprise leggy hit that summer grossing $117.5M so greenlighting another chapter was not surprising, but audiences this weekend voted and said this was an unnecessary sequel. The three leads Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day all returned as did Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, and Kevin Spacey who reprised their colorful characters.

Reviews were mostly negative - not surprising for a comedy sequel. Warner Bros. was hoping to see the significant growth it saw between the first two Hangover comedies, but this was not the case. Bosses 2 also offered a storyline that was very similar to the first film - the three inept men resort to kidnapping instead of murder this time. R-rated films have never done well at Thanksgiving time when audiences tend to gravitate towards cheery, more wholesome fare. In fact, only two of the Top 20 Thanksgiving openings of all time were rated R. According to studio research, the audience for Horrible Bosses 2 was 51% male and 59% over 25 and the CinemaScore grade was a decent B+.

Suffering one of the worst drops among wide releases was another crude comedy sequel, Dumb and Dumber To, which fell 41% to $8.4M giving Universal $72.2M to date. Oscar hopeful The Theory of Everything expanded nationwide from 140 to 802 locations and grossed $5M for a solid $6,248 average. Focus has banked $9.5M to date and hopes to keep the run going as word-of-mouth spreads for the genius romance.

The durable hit Gone Girl followed with $2.5M, off 13%, for a new total of $160.7M for Fox. David Fincher's latest has now spent nine weeks in the top ten, second only to Guardians of the Galaxy's ten among all 2014 releases this year. 2013 holdover Frozen spent 11 weeks in the top ten during this calendar year. Girl stands a great chance at extending its streak to ten next weekend with nothing big opening in the marketplace.

Indie hits rounded out the top ten. Fox Searchlight's Birdman inched up 1% from last weekend taking in $1.9M for a new total of $17.2M. The Weinstein Co. saw St. Vincent slide 24% to $1.7M. Cume is $39.3M.

The Weinstein Co. also generated a sensational kickoff for the Oscar run of its promising contender The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch with a platform debut of $479,352 from only four locations for an eye-popping $119,838 average. It was the second best opening weekend average of 2014 behind only the $202,792 of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel back in March. Game was able to top the $106,099 of rival awards contender Birdman from last month.

With excellent reviews and Cumberbatch looking like a favorite in the Best Actor race, the World War II-set drama will slowly expand beyond New York and Los Angeles in the coming weeks with six new markets on December 12 and a nationwide roll-out at Christmas. Weinstein is using the same strategy it successfully executed four years ago for another British film, The King's Speech, which also platformed over Thanksgiving weekend in four theaters averaging $88,863 before going national on Christmas weekend and using Oscar season to grow its North American total to a mammoth $135.5M.

Elsewhere below the top ten, Denzel Washington scored the fifth $100M+ domestic hit of his career with The Equalizer which passed the mark in its tenth weekend of release. The bankable double Oscar winner has starred in 14 films grossing over $75M domestic. None were sequels.

The top ten films grossed $151.9M which was down 20% from last Thanksgiving when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stayed at number one with $74.2M; and down 24% from 2012's holiday when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 remained in the top spot with $43.6M.

Compared to projections, both Penguins of Madagascar and Horrible Bosses 2 opened below my five-day forecasts of $45M and $35M, respectively.

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Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Pyramid opens.

# Title Nov 28 - 30 Nov 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1 $ 56,972,599 $ 121,897,634 -53.3 4,151 2 $ 13,725 $ 225,680,904 Lionsgate
2 Penguins of Madagascar 25,447,444 3,764 1 6,761 35,438,847 Fox
3 Big Hero 6 18,816,798 20,124,166 -6.5 3,365 4 5,592 167,219,558 Disney
4 Interstellar 15,743,005 15,341,167 2.6 3,066 4 5,135 147,035,482 Paramount
5 Horrible Bosses 2 15,457,418 3,375 1 4,580 22,771,243 Warner Bros.
6 Dumb and Dumber To 8,358,620 14,076,545 -40.6 3,130 3 2,670 72,237,610 Universal
7 The Theory of Everything 5,011,146 1,511,676 231.5 802 4 6,248 9,530,209 Focus
8 Gone Girl 2,465,434 2,836,019 -13.1 1,174 9 2,100 160,745,345 Fox
9 Birdman 1,874,369 1,853,664 1.1 710 7 2,640 17,220,426 Fox Searchlight
10 St. Vincent 1,704,700 2,249,311 -24.2 1,251 8 1,363 39,260,086 Weinstein Co.
11 Beyond the Lights 1,570,656 2,634,224 -40.4 1,187 3 1,323 12,731,390 Relativity
12 Fury 1,545,038 1,942,949 -20.5 1,059 7 1,459 81,894,080 Sony
13 Foxcatcher 1,032,000 474,000 117.7 72 3 14,333 2,126,000 Sony Classics
14 Nightcrawler 845,362 1,213,633 -30.3 570 5 1,483 28,677,308 Open Road
15 John Wick 560,885 876,324 -36.0 488 6 1,149 41,605,155 Lionsgate
16 Whiplash 496,000 530,000 -6.4 179 8 2,771 3,965,000 Sony Classics
17 The Equalizer 482,560 279,154 72.9 436 10 1,107 100,011,780 Sony
18 The Imitation Game 479,352 4 1 119,838 479,352 Weinstein Co.
19 Guardians of the Galaxy 461,937 491,661 -6.0 285 18 1,621 331,855,381 Disney
20 The Judge 439,666 551,293 -20.2 415 8 1,059 46,054,959 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 132,437,264 $ 174,275,531 -24.0
Top 10 151,851,533 184,467,355 -17.7
Top 20 159,764,989 191,413,754 -16.5
Top 20 vs. Thanksgiving 2013 159,764,989 204,829,728 -22.0

Last Updated: December 5, 2014 at 1:30PM ET

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