November 24, 2013



OPENINGS:  We noted here yesterday that if THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) could just hold on as well on its first Saturday as The Hunger Games had, a $160M weekend was within its grasp.  That’s exactly what happened, with the same 25% Saturday drop for Catching Fire that Hunger Games had and a $161.1M weekend estimate.  However, Lionsgate was awfully aggressive in its estimated Sunday drop of 30% (even better than Hunger Games), so that number may be walked back a bit tomorrow.  For the moment, Catching Fire has the #4 US opening of all time, behind only The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and the last Harry Potter, and barely ahead of Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises.  In any case, Catching Fire will stand as the biggest non-summer opening ever.  The next question is whether its Thanksgiving Weekend will be more like Breaking Dawn Part 2 (down 69% last year) or Skyfall (down 14%).  Even more important from Lionsgate’s point of view, Catching Fire had a huge $146.6M start overseas, already more than half the total Hunger Games $283.2M international return, and with France, Italy and Japan yet to open.  A total worldwide take of $800M+ seems likely.

The attempt to counterprogram Catching Fire with DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks/Disney) failed miserably, as the Vince Vaughn “comedy” ended up with a $8.2M weekend and will vanish from view imminently.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus/Universal), now in semi-wide release at 666 theatres, had a decent $4200 average, although that was off the recent pace of 12 Years A Slave, which had a $5800 average even when it hit 1144 theatres.

HOLDOVERS:  Both THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney) and THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (Universal) were smashed by Catching Fire, down a respective 61% (to $14.1M) and 58% (to $12.5M).  Dark World probably won’t get much past $200M in the US, about 10% ahead of the first Thor, but it already has $381M overseas, more than 40% higher than the entire international box office for Thor.  Best Man should hit $75M in the US.

Somewhat surprisingly, the older-skewing LAST VEGAS (CBS) was also hurt by Catching Fire‘s arrival, and after a 24% drop last weekend, it plunged 48% this time around to $4.8M, on its way to a $65M total. FREE BIRDS (Relativity) enjoyed its last pre-Disney weekend with $5.3M, down just 35% from last weekend.

BAD GRANDPA (Paramount), with a $3.5M weekend, and GRAVITY (Warners), with $3.3M, will likely hit respective milestones of $100M and $250M over the Thanksgiving holiday, and CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Sony) reached $100M in the US this weekend after adding another $1.8M to its total, an extremely successful run for a movie that wasn’t a sure thing.

12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) took a 39% hit this weekend to $2.8M, with a $1900 per-theatre average, and will now face the challenge of holding its position through the month of December, with many new high-quality adult-skewing titles dead ahead.

LIMITED RELEASE:  FROZEN (Disney) handed itself a $238K “average” at one (studio-owned) theatre with inflated ticket prices.  Even with all that, it ranked below 6 other Disney cartoons that had tried similar gambits.  In more conventional release at 4 NY/LA houses, PHILOMENA (Weinstein) started solidly with a $33K average.

There were lots of expansions this weekend.  THE BOOK THIEF (20th), now at 70 theatres, had an OK $8600 average and will take its shot of going wide next weekend.  NEBRASKA (Paramount) widened to 28 theatres with a $12.5K average.  BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (IFC) hit 138 theatres with a $1400 average that’s a bit better than it sounds, considering the running time and ratings restrictions.  THE ARMSTRONG LIE (Sony Pictures Classics) almost doubled its run to 37 theatres with a $1200 average.

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."