Weekend Box Office: Katniss Feasts On Penguins & Bosses For Thanksgiving

Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One had no problem staying at the number one position this weekend at the North American box office. The third installment of the Katniss Saga held off the moderate openings for Fox’s Penguins of Madagascar and Warner’s Horrible Bosses 2. Overall, this holiday frame was down 19% from last year at this time when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen were both making their way to a record-setting Thanksgiving frame.

After a less-than-anticipated $121 million opening a week ago Mockingjay Part One had a fairly strong hold in its second weekend on 4,151 screens. For the Friday-to-Sunday period the Jennifer Lawrence feature eased 53% -the same percentage Catching Fire declined in its sophomore frame a year ago- to an estimated $56.8 million. For the Wednesday-to-Sunday frame Mockingjay’s earnings were $82.7 million. The overall ten-day domestic total for the film stands at a robust $225.6 million. Combined with a $254.4 million foreign total Mockingjay is within striking distance of the half billion-dollar mark after less than two weeks.

Despite the acceptable hold in business Mockingjay continues to lag behind its predecessor by approximately 25%. A year ago at this time Catching Fire had earned $296 million en route to a $424 million final domestic gross, the highest of any film in 2013. Should Mockingjay follow a similar trajectory that Fire did last year it should wind up grossing roughly $320 million, which would make it the second highest-grossing film of 2014 right behind Guardians of the Galaxy.

Fox/Dreamworks’ Madagascar spinoff Penguins of Madagascar opened on 3,764 screens Wednesday where it earned $25.8 million from Friday to Sunday and $36 million for its first five days. The $36 million opening ranks as one of the lowest for a debuting animated feature during Thanksgiving week. The continued success of Disney’s Big Hero 6 undoubtedly cut into Penguins debut business, which was forecasted to be somewhere between $45-50 million.

In terms of viewer satisfaction, Penguins received mostly decent reviews from critics (69% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and from ticket buyers (A- CinemaScore rating), who may be able to help Penguins in the long run at the box office. The film may also see better days overseas where it has earned $63 million thus far, $33 million coming from China alone over the past two weeks.

Speaking of Big Hero 6, the Disney blockbuster lost a mere seven percent of its previous weekend’s audience in its fourth round on 3,365 screens. Baymax and his pals earned $18.7 million this weekend to bring its total to an impressive $167.2 million. With Penguins of Madagascar appearing to be a non-threat and with no direct competition on the horizon to speak of, Big Hero 6 should be able to work its way past the $200-215 million mark stateside. Overseas, the film has earned $57 million early in its run.

Another early November release that continues to bring in the crowds is Paramount/Warner’s sci-fi epic Interstellar. The Christopher Nolan feature actually went up in terms of attendance in its fourth weekend of release despite losing 349 screens. Orbiting 3,066 screens, including those big-ticket IMAX venues, Interstellar earned an estimated $15.8 million to bring its domestic total to $147 million. A final gross may near the $170-175 million mark. The film continues to be a financial juggernaut overseas where it has earned $395.2 million so far.

Rounding out the top five was the second wide release of the weekend, Warner’s Horrible Bosses 2. The sequel to the surprise 2011 comedy hit was trounced by the critics (35% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) and not warmly embraced by ticket buyers (B+ CinemaScore rating), who had far too many other options for the entertainment dollar to consider. Opening on 3,375 screens Bosses 2 earned a mild $15.7 million from Friday to Sunday and $23 million since opening on Wednesday, roughly five million below the original’s $28.2 million debut. Like Penguins of Madagascar, Horrible Bosses 2 opened well below its forecasted number of $35-40 million.

The holiday frame was very, very good to the Weinstein Company’s possible Oscar contender The Imitation Game. The critically acclaimed drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley opened on four screens Friday where it earned an award-worthy $482,000 for a spectacular per-screen average of $120,500. The screen average was the second highest of the year right behind the $220,000 per screen average achieved by The Grand Budapest Hotel back in February.

Another Oscar contender doing quite well in limited release is Focus’ Features The Theory of Everything. The Stephen Hawking biopic added 662 screens this weekend to bring its theater count to 802 where it earned a solid $5 million to land in seventh place. After four weeks, Theory has earned $9.6 million. Both Imitation and Theory will continue to add screens over the next several weeks as awards season kicks in.

The remainder of the top ten was as follows:

6.  Dumb and Dumber To (Universal) $8.2 million (-41%); $72.2 million

8.  Gone Girl (Fox) $2.4 million (-13%); $160.7 million

9.  Birdman (Fox Searchlight) $1.8 million (+1.4%); $17.2 million

10. St. Vincent (Weinstein Company) $1.77 million (-21%); $39.3 million

Next weekend will be light on the new release side with only Fox’s The Pyramid getting a token release on 550 screens. Mockingjay Part One should easily dominate the box office scene for a third weekend in a row prior to the arrival of Fox’s biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings on December 12th.

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