November 23, 2013



OPENINGS:  THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) came up from initial Friday estimates to $70.5M, the 7th highest single day box office in US history (behind the final Harry Potter, The Avengers, The Dark Knight, and 3 Twilights) and $3.2M ahead of the opening day for The Hunger Games.  If Catching Fire held as well over the weekend as Hunger Games did, it could reach $160M by Sunday, possibly the 4th biggest weekend ever (if it held as well as Iron Man 3, it would be even higher), but consensus seems to be that as a sequel it will be more frontloaded, more or less tying Hunger Games’ $152.5M opening (but with the 5-day Thanksgiving weekend dead ahead).  It should in any case set a new record for a November opening, ahead of the $142.8M for Twilight: New Moon.  In addition, Catching Fire has already made $64M in (mostly) opening days covering all major territories except France, Italy and Japan, double the rate of Hunger Games.

Catching Fire earned about as much in an hour on Friday as DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks/Disney) will make all weekend.  A terrible $2.8M Friday probably means a $8M weekend, the worst of Vince Vaughn’s wide-release career.  Even with a $26M budget and moderate marketing costs, it has little chance of avoiding red ink.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus/Universal) expanded to semi-wide release in 666 theatres, and should have a fairly good $4K average.

HOLDOVERS:  The Catching Fire juggernaut took its toll on the other films in the market.  The Friday-to-Friday drops for THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney) and THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (Universal) were 62% and 64% (to $4.1M and $3.8M, respectively), the perils of opening too close to a blockbuster.  The two of them should still get to $200M and $75M, although not much more.

LAST VEGAS (CBS), which had a 22% Friday drop a week ago, fell 47% yesterday (to $1.3M).  FREE BIRDS (Relativity) was less affected, down 39% from last weekend (to $1.1M), but it has a Disney bulldozer heading in its direction in just a few days.

12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) took the heaviest hit of its run thus far, down 40% from last Friday to $800K.  With more quality titles coming its way as the holiday awards season begins, the film may have a hard time holding onto screens in December.

LIMITED RELEASE:  There’s a reason why Disney owns the top 6 per-theatre openings of all time:  the studio likes to launch some of its animated movies at the El Capitan theatre in LA (which it owns), complete with a stage show and inflated ticket prices, for just a few days before wide release, jump-starting the run with a guaranteed gigantic “average”.  FROZEN, which opens in wide release on Wednesday, is the latest example, earning $67K yesterday and probably over $200K for the weekend.  At that rate, it would still rank below the other Disney half-dozen, since #6 was Hercules with $250K.

PHILOMENA (Weinstein) is having a more typical limited opening at 4 NY/LA theatres, and should have a solid $30K average, roughly equal to what Dallas Buyers Club did when it launched in 9 theatres.

A pair of awards hopefuls expanded for the weekend.  THE BOOK THIEF (20th) widened to 70 theatres, with an OK $9K average likely.  NEBRASKA (Paramount) is now at 28 theatres, also keeping its head above water with a probable $11K average (not as good as the $15K average for Book Thief last week at 29).

NEXT WEEKEND:  As noted above, FROZEN (Disney) goes wide on Wednesday, as does the Jason Statham vehicle HOMEFRONT (Open Road).  BLACK NATIVITY (Fox Searchlight) will have a semi-wide release in 1500 theatres, and Spike Lee’s OLDBOY (FilmDistrict) is even more semi at 500.  Both The Book Thief and Philomena will substantially widen their runs.  On Friday, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) joins the awards-seeking pack in limited release.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."