Weekend box office before Thanksgiving: ‘Hunger Games’ rises, ‘Marvels’ falls

This image released by Lionsgate shows Tom Blythe, left, and Rachel Ziegler in a scene from “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” Murray Close/Lionsgate via AP

“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 debuted in its second weekend, as well as the family-friendly “Trolls World Tour,” Taika Waititi’s football comedy “Next Goal Wins” and the nationwide debut of the R-rated slasher “Thanksgiving.” Hui. In wide release.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is an interesting case study for a franchise that has been dormant for eight 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 budgeted this at approximately $100 million, which was 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.

Critics were mixed on this, which is an origin story about future Panem President Coriolanus Snow. It currently holds a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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 (star)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 poor debut last weekend, “The Marvels” continued to disappoint, dropping a massive 78% in its second weekend in North America, earning only $10.2 million from 4,030 locations. 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. 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. Next weekend, the studio also has a new animated offering in the fairy tale musical “Wish.”

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