Weekend Report: 'Catching Fire,' 'Frozen' Set Thanksgiving Records
by Ray Subers
December 1, 2013
It was feast or famine at the box office over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen obliterated a handful of records, and combined for over $200 million for the five-day frame. The rest of the market didn't fare so well, though: in particular, new releases Homefront, Black Nativity and Oldboy failed to find an audience.
After opening to over $158 million last weekend, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire held well over the Thanksgiving holiday. For the three-day weekend, the movie took first place with $74.2 million; among all second weekends, that ranks fourth behind The Avengers, Avatar and The Dark Knight.
With $109.9 million from Wednesday to Sunday, the blockbuster sequel also destroyed the five-day Thanksgiving weekend record held for the past 12 years by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ($82.4 million).
Through its first 10 days, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has earned a massive $296.3 million. It's now virtually guaranteed to finish with over $400 million, and should also ultimately top the original movie's $408 million total.
Playing at 3,742 locations, Frozen opened to a massive $67.4 million over the three-day weekend. That's the second-highest weekend ever for a movie opening out of first place. For the five-day frame, Frozen took in $93.6 million, which is a new record for a Thanksgiving opening ahead of Toy Story 2 ($80.1 million). It's also way above similar movie Tangled, which took in $68.7 million over the same five-day period in 2010. Frozen's surprisingly high debut can likely be attributed to strong branding on the part of Disney's marketing. Early and often, the connection was made between Frozen and Disney Animation's Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, both of which were successful and well-liked. Leading up to release, the marketing also highlighted a critic quote that suggested the movie was Disney's best since The Lion King; that may be hyperbole, but it was also very effective. It didn't hurt that Frozen's marketing played up the humor—specifically, from snowman Olaf—which is a similar trait across nearly all successful animated movies. Frozen's audience skewed female (57 percent)—not surprising, considering it's a princess story—and was made up predominantly of families (81 percent). It received a rare "A+" CinemaScore, which suggests word-of-mouth will be very strong. While there is some competition late in December, Frozen will be the exclusive choice for family audiences for the next three weeks; as a result, a final total north of $250 million seems within reach.
While Frozen did great business, the rest of this weekend's new releases were disappointing. Playing at 2,570 theaters, Jason Statham action flick Homefront opened to just $6.9 million ($9.74 million for the five-day weekend). That debut is in line with recent Statham bombs Parker ($7 million) and Safe ($7.9 million), and failing to break $10 million for the five-day weekend is a major miss.
After two-and-a-half weeks in limited release, The Book Thief expanded to 1,234 theaters and earned $4.86 million this weekend. That's a fine start, though it still suggests that the movie isn't finding much of an audience outside of fans of the novel. To date, The Book Thief has earned $7.86 million. Black Nativity, the big-screen adaptation of the popular Langston Hughes musical, had a terrible debut this weekend. Playing at 1,516 locations, the movie earned just $4.8 million through its first five days. Black Nativity was targeted towards African-American and Christian audiences, though both of those groups clearly weren't all that interested in a musical retelling of the nativity story.
At 835 locations, Philomena earned $3.7 million over the three-day weekend. For the five-day frame, the movie earned $4.6 million.
Spike Lee's Oldboy remake got dumped in to 583 locations this weekend. Without much of a marketing push, the movie tanked with just $1.28 million for the five-day frame ($885,382 three-day). Based on these terrible results, it's unlikely the movie hangs in theaters long enough to make it past the $3 million mark, making this one of the biggest bombs in recent memory. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom opened to $84,283 at four theaters this weekend. The historical drama has a planned expansion around Christmas. Around-the-World Roundup The Hunger Games: Catching Fire continued to light up the overseas box office this weekend. The well-received sequel added $92.5 million for an early total of $276.4 million; it's now only a few days away from passing the original movie's $283 million total.
It opened in first place in France with $11.5 million, which is three times higher than the first movie's debut. It also scored a strong $6.2 million in Italy, which is more than The Hunger Games made in its entire run. Finally, it had the best opening of the year in Belgium with $2.3 million.
Overall, Catching Fire's top market so far is the U.K. with $35.3 million. Assuming it doesn't crater next weekend, the movie is on pace for well over $400 million overseas. Gravity added $25.4 million this weekend. Most of that came from China, where the movie earned $20.7 million in its second week. China is already the movie's top market outside of the U.S. with $55.6 million. To date, Gravity has earned $365.6 million overseas; adding in its domestic haul brings its worldwide total to $616 million, which is more than Life of Pi ($609 million). Gravity reaches its final market, Japan, on Dec. 13th.
Coinciding with its domestic debut, Frozen earned $16.7 million in 16 foreign markets (19 percent of the marketplace). It had strong starts in Germany ($6.8 million) and Spain ($3.4 million), and expands in to France, the U.K. and Russia next weekend. Thor: The Dark World added $12.2 million for a new total of $404 million. Its biggest market so far is China with $50.6 million.