Hollywood’s feast and famine before Thanksgiving, ‘Hunger Games’ prequel tops the box office

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” topped the North American box office in its first weekend in theaters with $44 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It was a busy weekend at the multiplex, often leading to the lucrative Thanksgiving corridor. And while there was plenty to choose from at the buffet, not everything could be a hit. Audiences had “The Marvels,” which dropped a record 78% in its second weekend, as well as the family-friendly “Trolls World Tour,” Taika Waititi’s soccer comedy “Next Goal Wins” and the R-rated slasher Nationwide. It started. “Thanksgiving” in all wide releases.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is an interesting case study for a franchise that has been dormant for 8 years and is testing the waters for a new era. Its $44 million from 3,776 venues, including 1,610 premium screens, is the lowest for a film with “The Hunger Games” in the title. All four Jennifer Lawrence films grossed $100 million in their first weekends (the high point was the first in 2013 with $158 million, the lowest point was the first in 2015 with $102.7 million).

But it’s a more nuanced story for Lionsgate, which works differently from legacy studios by licensing its titles to international distributors that helps cover a significant portion of a film’s budget. The filmmakers kept it at around $100 million, which was also offset by tax credits for filming in Germany.

With an additional $54.5 million from 87 international markets, the film has already grossed $98.5 million. The studio considered it a strong start to the prequel, set 64 years before Katniss Everde’s arrival in the film, with a new cast led by Tom Blythe and Rachel Ziegler.

Adam Fogelson, vice president of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, said, “Historically attempting to make a prequel, especially without any returning cast, can be a very challenging proposition.” “The fact that we’re sitting at basically $100 million in the opening weekend worldwide is, I think, a testament to the quality of the film, the quality of the talent working on the film and a campaign that was both successful and skilled.”

For Fogelson and the filmmakers, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” represents something entirely new, darker and more dramatic that opens up new possibilities, provided writer Suzanne Collins wants to tell more stories. Evaluating Collins’s books against Jennifer Lawrence’s films at the height of their popularity, he said, “would be a complete disservice to this film as a standalone.”

At the same time, he added, “From a pure business standpoint, this is going to be an incredibly successful proposition for Lionsgate.”

However, critics had mixed opinions on it, which is an origin story about future Panem President Coriolanus Snow. It currently holds a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences were more positive and moviegoing behavior may worsen around the holidays. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, said some viewers may be looking forward to watching it with their families during the holiday season around Thanksgiving.

Unlike many of its big-budget peers, “The Hunger Games” prequel also had the benefit of having its stars promote the film, leading to a tentative deal before the SAG-AFTRA strike ended. In the latest fallout of the strike, other studios have struggled to bring out their newly available stars to promote their films ahead of this weekend.

“Trolls Band Together”, the third in the animated series, finished second with an estimated $30.6 million in its North American debut, which includes profits from early secret screenings through November 4. “Trolls” opened first internationally and is expected to cross $100 million globally this weekend.

Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s jukebox musical brings back Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake in lead voice roles and also features the much-hyped reunion of *NSYNC. It also has a mixed 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, but its younger audience was more positive giving it an A CinemaScore.

And after its rough debut last weekend, the outlook for “The Marvels” is getting worse. It earned only $10.2 million from 4,030 locations in the second weekend and placed third. Its 78% drop is a historic low for Marvel and modern superhero pictures. Internationally it added $19.5 million, bringing its global total to $161.3 million.

“The Marvels” was nearly bested by the R-rated Eli Roth horror, “Thanksgiving,” which earned an estimated $10.2 million from 3,204 locations. The film from TriStar Pictures and Spyglass Media Group takes place in Plymouth, Massachusetts after the Black Friday tragedy and stars Patrick Dempsey and Addison Rae. The studio hopes it will attract college students to theaters during their vacations.

Walt Disney Co. is also struggling with Searchlight Pictures’ “Next Goal Wins,” its underdog soccer movie starring Michael Fassbender, which earned $2.5 million from 2,240 locations in its first weekend and finished seventh. Directed by Taika Waititi and based on a true story, the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was not well received by critics.

With improving reviews and word of mouth, Focus Features’ “The Holdovers” starring Paul Giamatti is finding viewers as it continues to grow in its fourth weekend, earning $2.7 million from 1,478 theaters. “Priscilla,” from A24 and Sofia Coppola, is enjoying steady progress with nearly $17 million. It is now Coppola’s second biggest film, after “Lost in Translation”.

This week, the offerings become even more plentiful, with a mix of Disney’s “Wish,” Ridley Scott’s historical epic “Napoleon” and Emerald Fennell’s evocative “Saltburn.”

“It’s traditional for the Thanksgiving frame that people can watch movies big and small,” Dergarabedian said. “The issue for film lovers is how do you choose? “And which films will be left lying on the children’s tables?”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” $44 million.

2. “Trolls Band Together,” $30.6 million.

3. “The Marvels,” $10.2 million.

4. “Thanksgiving,” $10.2 million.

5. “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” $3.5 million.

6. “The Holdovers,” $2.7 million.

7. “Next Goal Wins,” $2.5 million.

8. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” $2.4 million.

9. “Priscilla,” $2.3 million.

10. “Killers of the Flower Moon,” $1.9 million.

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