At the same time, the weekend's two new titles—Penguins of Madagascar and Horrible Bosses 2—were both disappointments.
The Top 12 earned $154.9 million this weekend; that's down over 20 percent from the same frame last year, when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen earned a combined $142 million.
In its second weekend, Mockingjay eased 53 percent to $57 million. That drop is identical to Catching Fire's, albeit off of a much lower opening weekend.
To date, Mockingjay ranks seventh in 2014 with $225.7 million. If it follows Catching Fire's pattern, it will wrap up with $324 million, which is a bit lower than current 2014 leader Guardians of the Galaxy ($331.9 million and counting).
Playing at 3,764 theaters, Penguins of Madagascar opened to $25.4 million this weekend. For the five-day weekend, the movie earned $35.4 million.
In comparison, the last two Madagascar movies each opened over $60 million over traditional three-day weekends. Penguins looks even worse when compared to DreamWorks Animation's Rise of the Guardians, which debuted to $32.3 million over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend two years ago. An 11 percent bump from that notorious flop isn't going to cut it for a franchise title.
According to distributor 20th Century Fox, the audience was 51 percent female and 58 percent under the age of 25. 3D showings accounted for 24 percent of sales.
With an "A-" CinemaScore, solid reviews, and no new family competition for the next three weeks, Penguins should hold up decently. Still, there's a realistic chance that this finishes below $100 million.
DreamWorks Animation has been on a very rough streak as of late. Four of their last six movies have opened below $33 million and closed below $115 million (that's including Penguins, which we're assuming drops off at a normal rate). Compare that to their previous 11 movies, all of which opened above $33 million and wrapped up above $125 million.
Even though it's already been in theaters for three weeks, Big Hero 6 wasn't far behind Penguins of Madagascar this weekend. The Disney Animation hit added $18.8 million—nearly on par with its gross from last weekend—for a new total of $167.2 million. There's nothing new for family moviegoers until December 19th, which should give Big Hero 6 enough room to fly past $200 million.
Interstellar added $15.7 million over the three-day weekend, which was actually up three percent from the previous week. IMAX accounted for $5.7 million, or 36 percent. So far, the Christopher Nolan sci-fi epic has grossed $147 million, and remains on track for over $170 million total.
Over the three-day weekend, Horrible Bosses 2 wound up in fifth place with $15.5 million. That's down 45 percent from the first movie's $28.3 million; roll in Wednesday and Thursday, and the Bosses sequel was still off 19 percent to $22.8 million.
That also doesn't compare favorably to We're the Millers or Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which had five-day starts of $37.9 million and $39.5 million, respectively. Thanksgiving weekend releases tend to be fairly front-loaded; with poor reviews and mixed word-of-mouth ("B+" CinemaScore), it wouldn't be surprising if Bosses wound up under $50 million total.
This is one of those weekends where Hollywood's obsession with franchise fare is called in to question. In the U.S., at least, many moviegoers aren't going to buy a ticket simply because of brand familiarity: unless a movie is a follow-up to something that's really loved (22 Jump Street) or pushes the story forward in a distinct, exciting way (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), there's going to be a drop off in attendance from one installment to the next. For these two titles, that decline was steeper than usual.
The Theory of Everything expanded to 802 theaters and earned an impressive $5.01 million this weekend ($6.4 million over the five-day frame). In comparison, Birdman only earned $2.5 million in its nationwide expansion earlier this month. The Theory of Everything is also out-performing Dallas Buyers Club, which was Focus Features' big awards movie last November.
So far, the Stephen Hawking biopic has grossed $9.53 million. With strong word-of-mouth, positive reviews and ongoing awards buzz, this could be on track to earn over $30 million total.
Another awards-bait biopic got off to an excellent start this weekend: The Imitation Game opened to $479,352 from four locations, which translates to a stunning $119,838 per-theater average. That ranks second for the year behind The Grand Budapest Hotel, and seventh all-time for a live-action movie.
The Imitation Game also out-performed The King's Speech, which averaged $88,863 at four locations on the same weekend in 2010. It's way too early to suggest that The Imitation Game will match that movie's long-term success, but this does suggest that the World War II drama has legitimate box office potential.
Around-the-World Roundup: 'Mockingjay' Repeats, 'Interstellar' Nears $400 Million >>
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• Forecast: Katniss to Fend Off 'Penguins,' 'Bosses' Over Thanksgiving
• 'Mockingjay' Can't Catch 'Fire'
This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2013 - 'Catching Fire,' 'Frozen' Set Thanksgiving Records
• 2012 - 'Twilight,' Bond Dominate Fruitful Thanksgiving
• 2011 - 'Twilight' Leads, 'Muppets' Succeeds Over Thanksgiving Weekend
• 2010 - 'Harry Potter,' 'Tangled' Tower Over Thanksgiving Weekend
• 2009 - Fading 'New Moon' Eclipses 'Twilight,' 'Blind Side' Surges
• 2008 - 'Four Christmases' Rushes Thanksgiving
• 2007 - 'Enchanted' Bewitches Thanksgiving
• 2006 - 'Happy Feet,' 'Casino Royale' Top Thanksgiving
• 2005 - 'Goblet' Gobbles 'Rent'
• Weekend Box Office Results
• Thanksgiving 5-Day Grosses