Forecast: Katniss to Fend Off 'Penguins,' 'Bosses' Over Thanksgiving
Penguins of Madagascar and Horrible Bosses 2 should do decent business over the long Thanksgiving weekend, though its unlikely that the two new franchise titles come anywhere close to taking first place from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.

A year ago, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire fell 53 percent over the three-day Thanksgiving weekend. If Mockingjay matched that drop, it would earn $57 million over the three-day weekend, and around $85 million for the five-day frame (including Wednesday and Thursday).

However, word-of-mouth for Mockingjay isn't quite as strong, and grosses have dropped off at a slightly steeper rate from Friday to Tuesday. Look for Mockingjay to fall 55 to 60 percent in its second frame, which would put it around $50 million ($70-75 million five-day).

Opening at 3,654 locations, Penguins of Madagascar should take second place ahead of Horrible Bosses 2.

Madagascar is one of DreamWorks Animation's most successful franchises: all three movies have earned over $180 million in the U.S., with the recent third installment setting a franchise high with $216.4 million. The movies have also been huge at the international box office, where the last outing scored over $530 million.

Instead of jumping right in to a traditional fourth installment—which is now in development for a 2018 release—DreamWorks opted to spin off the franchise's popular penguin characters in to their own movie. This isn't the first time the company has gone the spin-off route: in 2011, Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots earned over $550 million worldwide.

Marketing for Penguins of Madagascar has played up the Madagascar connection—its emphasized in the title design, there's a glimpse of the circus wigs, etc.—while also positioning this as its own adventure. Trailers and commercials lean heavily on comedy over action, which tends to be a successful strategy for animated movies (Big Hero 6 is a recent example of this).

Speaking of Big Hero 6: the Disney Animation hit is still making plenty of money heading in to its fourth weekend, and will likely keep some family moviegoers away from Penguins of Madagascar. Still, there's plenty of money to go around: over the past three years, the long weekend has been good for at least $80 million in ticket sales for family-friendly entertainment.

According to Fandango, Penguins of Madagascar is out-selling The Croods ($43.6 million) and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 ($34 million). Based on this information, look for it to at least match 2011 Thanksgiving release The Muppets ($41.5 million) over the five-day frame.

The really big opportunity for Penguins is at the international box office, where the previous Madagascar movie earned over $530 million. While Penguins won't be able to match that figure, it's still likely that it comes close to $400 million.

Opening at 3,321 theaters, Horrible Bosses 2 hits theaters three-and-a-half years after the first Horrible Bosses, which opened to $28.3 million on its way to $117.5 million total.

The sequel brings back the entire original cast, many of whom have had successful follow-ups in recent years (Identity Thief, We're the Millers). It also adds Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine to the mix, which helps differentiate this installment from its predecessor. From a marketing perspective, Warner Bros. has been pushing the movie aggressively, and the cast has been on a major publicity tour lately.

The movie does have some things working against it, though. While the first one was generally well-liked, it's unclear if it still has a really passionate fan base: it would be surprising if the Horrible Bosses fan base was on the same level as that of 21 Jump Street or Anchorman when their sequels arrived in theaters recently.

Also, while previews feature some solid jokes, there isn't a ton of stand-out material. This issue is compounded by the fact that the movie is getting taken apart by critics: as of Wednesday afternoon, it was at a weak 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Still, it enters a market that's pretty light on competition—Dumb and Dumber To is fading quickly—and it is doing well in pre-sales. According to Fandango, Horrible Bosses 2 is out-selling We're the Millers and the first Horrible Bosses, which suggests that a $30 million five-day weekend is likely.

After two-and-a-half weeks in limited release, Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything expands nationwide to 749 theaters on Wednesday. The movie has so far earned just over $3 million, and will add at least that much—perhaps even closer to $5 million—over the next five days.

On Friday, another awards-contending biopic begins rolling in to theaters. The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, opens at four locations in New York and Los Angeles.

Similar to 2010's The King's Speech, The Imitation Game is being positioned as an inspirational true story about a British historical figure overcoming adversity during the second World War. It's probably no coincidence, then, that the The King's Speech was also released by the Weinstein Company at four locations in New York and Los Angeles over Thanksgiving weekend.

That movie went on to earn over $138 million in the U.S., and win four Oscars (including Best Picture). It would be very surprising if The Imitation Game mirrored that feat: reviews aren't quite as strong, and its awards buzz isn't quite as loud. Still, look for a strong per-theater average this weekend (at least $50,000) ahead of a solid run at the box office over the next two months.

Forecast (November 28-30)

1. Mockingjay Part 1 - $52 million ($77 million five-day)

2. Penguins of Madagascar - $34 million ($47 million five-day)

3. Horrible Bosses 2 - $25 million ($37 million)

4. Big Hero 6 - $18 million ($25 million five-day)

5. Interstellar - $14 million ($20 million five-day)

Bar for Success

Penguins of Madagascar is in fine shape if it hits $45 million over its first five days. Meanwhile, Horrible Bosses 2 should be earning at least as much over five days as Dumb and Dumber To recently made over its first three days ($36.1 million).

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