Weekend Box Office (December 5 - 7, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The annual post-turkey blues kicked in, and kicked in hard. North America's box office slumped to its second worst weekend of 2014 with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 easily holding onto the crown for the third consecutive time. Lionsgate's latest chapter in the Katniss franchise grossed an estimated $21.6M dropping 62% from the Thanksgiving holiday session. That was slightly better than the 65% fall that Catching Fire suffered this same weekend last year.

With $257.7M collected, Mockingjay is now running 23% behind the pace of Fire and 15% behind the first Hunger Games which played in the spring of 2012. A domestic final in the range of $325M seems likely. Fire faced the new Hobbit film in its fourth weekend, but Mockingjay does not have to deal with that franchise's latest - and final - chapter until its fifth frame giving it a little extra breathing room. Mockingjay Part 2 opens on November 20 next year and should excite fans more than Part 1 did and witness a better box office run being the concluding installment for the series. The four films should collectively gross over $3 billion worldwide.

Overseas, Mockingjay shattered the $300M mark and lifted the international sum to $302.8M putting the new global gross at $560.5M. It still has two major territories to open next year - Japan in May and China on an undetermined date. Reaching $750M worldwide is possible.

Also staying put was the DreamWorks Animation offering Penguins of Madagascar which remained in second place, this time grossing an estimated $11.1M. The PG-rated family film struggled on opening weekend and dropped 56% in its second round for a 12-day cume of $49.6M. By comparison, the studio's last Thanksgiving toon Rise of the Guardians held up better dipping just 43% in its sophomore session. Historically, animated films do very well on Black Friday and then fall hard on the following weekend, except for movies with Christmas themes involved. Santa was one of the main characters in the winter-themed Rise. After 12 days of release via distributor Fox, Penguins is now only 1.5% ahead of Rise's total from the same point with no holiday theme to keep it relevant throughout December.

Penguins of Madagascar is now on track to finish its domestic run with roughly $88M. 15 of the last 16 films from DreamWorks Animation did better. Even the studio's last spinoff attempt with Puss in Boots was stronger with $149.3M. The studio will need to determine if there is a market for the extraordinarily high number of films it puts out. Over the last four years, DreamWorks Animation has come out with ten films compared to only three from rival Pixar.

With holiday distractions taking center stage, and studios not offering anything new and worthwhile in wide release, the North American box office took a big hit with the Top 20 tumbling down to just $75M. The only weekend in 2014 that was worse was the September 5-7 frame when the Top 20 limped to just $58M. December has gotten off to a lousy start with very few must-see movies playing and next weekend is not likely to see a huge jump putting pressure on the final two weeks of the year to pack audiences in.

In its second weekend, the crude buddy comedy Horrible Bosses 2 dropped 44% which is pretty good for coming off of a holiday session. But the gross was still relatively weak at an estimated $8.6M with the new total now sitting at an unimpressive $36.1M. After 12 days of release, the Warner Bros. pic is running a whopping 45% below its 2011 predecessor's pace. A final of $60-65M should result making a third chapter unlikely.

Disney's hit toon Big Hero 6 fell 57% from the holiday frame and grossed an estimated $8.1M lifting the cume to a stellar $177.5M. Baymax and pals have now surpassed How To Train Your Dragon 2 to become the second biggest animated film of 2014 trailing just The LEGO Movie. Hero is running 12% ahead of the pace of the studio's Wreck-It Ralph from two years ago and could finish its domestic run with about $210M. While there are some live-action family films coming up in the weeks ahead, no other toons will open during the Christmas holidays.

Close behind in fifth with an estimated $8M was the sci-fi hit Interstellar which declined by 49%. Paramount has taken in $158.7M with Christopher Nolan's much-talked-about space adventure on its way to about $180M in North America. Interstellar is already this year's top-grossing movie not based on any pre-existing brand. International markets saw their total rise to $434.4M giving the Matthew McConaughey film $593.1M worldwide. In China it has grossed an incredible $119.2M which is second best among all US films this year behind only the monster $300M+ of the latest Transformers. Among 2D films from Hollywood, it is now number one of all-time there.

The Jim Carrey comedy sequel Dumb and Dumber To dropped 50% to an estimated $4.2M and has banked $78.1M for Universal. A final of $85-90M seems likely which would fall well below the $127.2M of Dumb and Dumber from 20 years ago when ticket prices were an average of just $4.17.

Off 47% was the Stephen Hawking pic The Theory of Everything with an estimated $2.7M. With Eddie Redmayne a serious contender to take the Best Actor Oscar, the Focus release has grossed $13.6M to date and enjoyed the second best per-theater average among all wide releases after the Katniss pic. Ben Affleck's Gone Girl followed with an estimated $1.5M, off only 39% from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, for a new total of $162.9M. The Fox title has now remained in the top ten for ten consecutive weekends matching Guardians of the Galaxy for the most of any 2014 film.

The only new release to open anywhere close to wide this weekend was the horror film The Pyramid which stumbled into ninth place with an estimated $1.4M. The R-rated thriller set in Egypt averaged a mild $2,292 from 589 locations. Reviews were awful for the Fox release. This year has seen very few hits come from the horror genre. Rounding out the top ten was Fox Searchlight's awards contender Birdman with an estimated $1.2M, down 39%, for a $18.9M cume.

The specialty marketplace was still active with Reese Witherspoon's new film Wild opening nicely to an estimated $630,000 from 21 theaters in seven cities for a $30,000 average. Total is $677,000 including business in New York and Los Angeles from Wednesday. Reviews have been sensational and Witherspoon is getting much praise for her performance which is sure to lead to another Best Actress Oscar nomination. Fox Searchlight will expand to the Top 20 markets on Friday for a total of about 100 theaters and widen to about 900 locations by Christmas Day.

Over in the men's race, Benedict Cumberbatch's The Imitation Game expanded from four to eight theaters and grossed an estimated $402,000 for a strong $50,250 average. The Weinstein Co. will open in six new markets this Friday and aims to be nationwide on December 25 as well in this year's crowded awards marketplace. Gracing the cover of Time Magazine and locking in the title role in Marvel's upcoming super hero pic Doctor Strange, Cumberbatch has seen his star rise dramatically over the last month on this side of the pond. Weinstein will try to cash in on that.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $68.3M which was down 19% from last year when Frozen rose to number one with $31.6M; and even with 2012 when Skyfall climbed into the top spot with $10.8M.

Compared to projections, The Pyramid opened on target with my $1M forecast.

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Watch the NEW trailer for Terminator Genisys.

Be sure to check back on Monday for final figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Exodus: Gods and Kings and Top Five both open.


Last Updated: December 7, 2014 at 2:20PM ET

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