'In the Heart of the Sea' Runs Ashore Giving 'Mockingjay 2' Its Fourth Straight #1
The director/star pairing of Ron Howard and Chris Hemsworth just can't seem to deliver a break-out box office success. After the well-received Rush fizzled at the box office back in 2013, In the Heart of the Sea struggled mightily this weekend, opening in second place, giving The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 its fourth straight weekend at #1. Most notably, the weekend top twelve grossed a mere $68.7 million, the worst this weekend has seen since Star Trek: Insurrection topped the box office in 1998.

Chalk it up to opening one weekend before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a lack of audience interest, or the middling reviews, but the $11 million opening weekend for In the Heart of the Sea is a disappointment to say the least. Reports peg the budget at somewhere around $100 million and with an opening like that, this one will need to cross its fingers to finish in the $30 million range domestically. The "B+" CinemaScore suggests audiences were fine with what they saw, but with Star Wars opening this coming weekend Heart of the Sea is likely to face a steep drop, and will keep on dropping from there.

Taking first place for the fourth weekend in a row with $11.3 million, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 becomes only the second film in the Hunger Games franchise to manage such a feat and the first since Furious 7 did it back at the start of the summer. Only the first Hunger Games was able to take the top spot at the box office four weekends in a row with Catching Fire succumbing in its third weekend and Mockingjay - Part 1 in its fourth. Mockingjay 2, however, is still the fourth best overall performer in the franchise as its worldwide cume has now crossed $564 million worldwide. By comparison, Mockingjay 1 was at $610.8 million at the same point in its run and, unlike Mockingjay 2, hadn't yet opened in China.

The weekend's other new notable opener was Paramount's impressive, limited release of The Big Short. Opening in only eight theaters, the awards season contender brought in an estimated $720,000 for a strong, $90,000 per theater average, the second best of 2015 behind the massive, $130,381 average Steve Jobs opened with back in October. That's a comparison, however, The Big Short might be wary of as Steve Jobs failed to catch on as it expanded nationwide. The one thing this ensemble feature has going for it, though, are the four Golden Globe nominations it received along with a Screen Actor's Guild nomination and a win from the National Board of Review for Best Ensemble. The film stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Melissa Leo and will expand nationwide on December 23.

Speaking of awards contenders, presumptive Best Picture front-runner Spotlight managed the weekend's best hold, dropping just 10.4% as it brought in an estimated $2.5 million, bringing its cume to over $20 million. Behind it in tenth position, Brooklyn also continued to perform well, dropping 19% for an estimated $1.97 million in its sixth weekend.

Otherwise, Creed continues to perform very well, dropping only 32.5% in its third weekend, bringing in an estimated $10.1 million. The Rocky spin-off has now grossed $79 million domestically on a $35 million budget and is showing little sign of slowing down. The coming of Star Wars will certainly take a bite out of most every film in release, but the true test will be to see which films manage to hold on admirably, and Creed just might be one of those films that continues to stand tall.

Another film that's holding on nicely, thanks to little competition is The Night Before, which dropped only 22.5% this weekend for an estimated $3.9 million. Next weekend sees the release of the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler comedy Sisters, which will mean audiences will be able to choose from a trio of uniquely targeted comedies, including Universal's Krampus, which dropped 50% in its second weekend for an estimated $8 million this weekend.

In limited release, Carol continued to perform well, grossing an estimated $336,924 as it added twelve theaters and averaged $21,058 per. Not doing so hot, however, is Universal's Legend, which was originally supposed to have gone wide this weekend but instead only added 46 theaters. The film, which is now playing in just 107 theaters, brought in an estimated $301,000 and looks like it will be a film most will have to look for on DVD and Blu-ray in a few months.

This weekend was clearly the calm before the Star Wars storm. Next weekend marks the arrival of the first live action Star Wars film in over ten years arrives and with it the $84.6 million December opening weekend record will fall, but by how much? The largest jump from a previous monthly record happened earlier this year when American Sniper bested Ride Along's January record by 115%. Should Star Wars: The Force Awakens repeat that effort you're looking at an $181.9 million opening. In order to break Jurassic World's $208.8 million opening weekend record it's going to need to improve on that Hobbit opening by better than 146.7%. Will it happen? We'll talk more about it next week...

You can find the full weekend chart here. The chart will be updated with actuals on Monday afternoon.

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