The Hunger Games: Catching Fire should easily repeat in first place, and could set a new Thanksgiving record. Meanwhile, Disney Animation's Frozen is also looking at a strong start, though it probably won't match similar movie Tangled.
Catching Fire is coming off an enormous $158.1 million weekend, and is receiving strong word-of-mouth (an "A" CinemaScore). The current all-time record for the five-day Thanksgiving weekend (Wednesday to Sunday) is $82.4 million, set back in 2001 by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Based on Catching Fire's mid-week performance so far, it's likely that it sets a new record with at least $85 million.
Expanding to 3,742 locations after a successful exclusive run at Disney's El Capitan theater, Frozen is the latest movie from the resurgent Disney Animation Studios. The animation department scored a big hit in 2010 with Tangled ($200.8 million), and had another win last year with Wreck-It Ralph ($189.4 million).
In a number of ways, Frozen closely resembles Tangled: both are "princess" stories with musical elements, and both opened on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. They're also both loosely based on classic fairy tales, though the Brothers Grimm's "Rapunzel" is more well-known than Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen."
Disney has aggressively marketed Frozen, though it's unclear how effective the material has been. Instead of focusing on the story—or highlighting the fact that it's a musical—the marketing has mainly emphasized the movie's humor, most of which comes from the snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad). While it's true that funny animated movies fare better than serious ones, there needs to be some semblance of a story as well, and that's not really being shown here. During the final stretch of the campaign, Disney has also been emphasizing the quality of the movie—a popular pull quote suggests that it's Disney's best animated movie since The Lion King.
This is the fourth major Disney family movie to open over Thanksgiving weekend in recent memory. The Muppets, Enchanted and Tangled all had five-day starts north of $40 million, and the same will be true for Frozen. Still, with tough competition from Catching Fire and a marketing campaign that's been hit-or-miss, it's tough to imagine it matching Tangled's $68.7 million.
A different type of musical should also make a solid showing this weekend. At 1,516 locations, Black Nativity (based on the classic Langston Hughes play) is targeting Christian and African-American audiences. With a handful of big names (Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson) and a soulful, seasonal story, it's likely that Black Nativity earns at least $15 million over the five-day frame.
At 2,572 locations, Homefront is aimed at adult males who, surprisingly, don't have too many clear options this weekend. While violent R-rated fare doesn't typically do well over Thanksgiving, it still seems like Homefront will improve a bit on recent Jason Statham movies Safe and Parker (both of which opened below $8 million). On the low-end, Homefront should do at least as well as 2010 movie Faster, which took in $12 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame.
Spike Lee's Oldboy remake was expected to get a major nationwide release this weekend, but ultimately FilmDistrict elected to only push it out in to 583 venues. That's an odd release pattern that suggests lack of confidence in the material; fans of the original movie will likely give it a look, but otherwise it's not going to do much business.
After earning $1.46 million in two-and-a-half weeks of limited release, The Book Thief expands in to 1,234 theaters on Wednesday. Fox has done a solid job of getting word out about it, though it's unlikely that the story (about a young girl in World War II Germany) will have much appeal outside of fans of the book upon which it's based.
Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, expands to 753 locations after five days in Los Angeles and New York. With strong reviews and previews targeted towards older audiences, it's likely that this finds a decent audience over the next month or so.
Forecast (Nov. 29-Dec. 1)
1. Catching Fire - $62 million ($95 million five-day)
2. Frozen - $44.7 million ($63 million five-day)
3. Black Nativity - $13 million ($19 million five-day)
4. Thor - $11.3 million ($16.1 million five-day)
5. Homefront - $8.9 million ($14.2 million five-day)
Bar for Success
While Frozen doesn't need to match Tangled, it does need to at least open higher than Enchanted ($49.1 million five-day). Meanwhile, Black Nativity and Homefront are in fine shape if they get to $15 million for the five-day frame.
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• Last Weekend's Report: 'Catching Fire' Burns Bright, Sets November Record
• Holiday 2013 Forecast