November 30, 2013



Mitch Metcalf has a great analysis of the continuing strength of THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) after its $31.3M Friday in his box office post today–highly recommended.  Catching Fire should set a slew of milestones tomorrow, including the best 3-day and 5-day Thanksgiving weekends ever, and very possibly the #2 second weekend of all time at over $75.6M, behind only The Avengers ($103.1M).  Even if the number gets a bit lower in Monday finals, Lionsgate will probably project a 10-day total of $300M, which would tie it with The Dark Knight as second-fastest movie to hit that number (also behind The Avengers).  It’s also in strong shape by the end of its run to beat not just the $408M US total for The Hunger Games, but the $409M for Iron Man 3, making it the top US release of the year.  In addition, Catching Fire has already made $229M overseas, just $54M off the entire international run of The Hunger Games after 8 days, and that number will be much higher tomorrow.  As franchise blockbusters go, Catching Fire cost a very reasonable $130M (more like $300M with global marketing, especially since the studio pushed hard for that overseas bump), and it’s now looking like an easy $800M+ worldwide.  The next big test for Lionsgate will be Spring 2014, when it opens Divergence and tries to get a second major franchise going.

OPENINGS:  Both of the holiday’s blockbusters feature female leads, which should puncture Hollywood wisdom about the ceiling for movies not made primarily for boys (of all ages).  FROZEN (Disney) zoomed 142% from Thursday to $26.9M on Friday, and it would have the Thanksgiving weekend record… if it hadn’t been for Catching Fire.  The interesting question is whether Frozen can beat the $268.4M that Monsters University made earlier this year, making it the year’s #1 animated movie–which would really show up Disney’s favored child Pixar.  Frozen hasn’t yet opened overseas, but it should do giant business with its fairytale setting and epic 3D visuals.

“Also-ran” is too kind a term for the rest of the weekend’s arrivals.  HOMEFRONT (Open Road) fared best, and should have a very unimpressive $9M 5-day weekend after $2.6M on Friday.  BLACK NATIVITY (Fox Searchlight) won’t get much beyond $5M in 5 days after a $1.6M Friday.  Spike Lee’s OLDBOY (FilmDistrict) will have a pathetic $1.2M over 5 days in 583 theatres after $340K on Friday.  Oldboy is FilmDistrict’s last release before it’s absorbed by Focus/Universal in a month, and the indie studio barely tried to market it, but considering its ultra-violent, dark content and the lousy reviews, more effort is unlikely to have had much effect.

A pair of Oscar hopefuls expanded with blah results.  THE BOOK THIEF (20th), now at 1234 theatres, made $1.9M on Friday and probably $6.5M over 5 days.  PHILOMENA (Weinstein) expanded to 753 theatres on Wednesday and then again to 835 on Friday, spiking its daily increase so that it more than tripled the Thursday number to $1.3M.  It’s still only headed to $4M or so over the 5-day holiday.

HOLDOVERS:  THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney) was way behind the top 2 newcomers, but it held its own with $4.5M on Friday and a likely $15M over 5 days, still on its way to a little over $200M in the US, up about 15% from the first ThorTHE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (Universal) was just behind with $3.4M on Friday for $11M over 5 days, with $80M in its sights (and another sequel already ordered).  Considering its disastrous opening, DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks/Disney) didn’t hold badly, with $2.7M on Friday and $9-10M for the 5-day weekend.  Even so, it remains a very big flop.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The only fresh arrival of the holiday weekend was MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein), likely to have an OK $20K average at 4 theatres.  NEBRASKA (Paramount) expanded to 102 theatres and may not crack a $7500 average for the 3-day weekend.  Both films will be hoping for some help in the Best Actor category when critics’ awards start being announced next week.

NEXT WEEKEND:  The first weekend in December is typically a fairly dead one at the box office, as holiday shopping begins in earnest, and the only wide opening is the dark R-rated drama OUT OF THE FURNACE (Relativity), its studio’s major Oscar hope for the year.  It’s unlikely to have much effect on Catching Fire or Frozen.  The limited release of the Coen Brothers’ INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS) also begins.

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."