December 1, 2013



Studio honesty is rare enough to be worth noting when it appears:  THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) could easily have juiced its Sunday estimate to claim the #2 second weekend of all time today, but instead it was content with being #4, at $74.5M  just $1.1M behind Avatar and $700K behind The Dark Knight.  Similarly, it could have estimated a total $300M in its first 10 days of release, instead of $296.5M (since it will obviously reach the milestone tomorrow, that will put it in 3d place instead of 2d, again behind Avengers and Dark Knight).  Honesty must come a bit easier when the best 3-day and 5-day ($110.1M) Thanksgiving holiday records are falling your way.  Catching Fire fell 53% over the Fri-Sun part of the holiday weekend from its opening, a far better hold than the last 4 blockbusters to open the week before Thanksgiving:  drops of 70%/61%/70%/69% for 3 Twilights and a Harry Potter. Catching Fire is $48M ahead of where The Hunger Games was after 10 days, and $11.7M ahead of Iron Man 3, currently the year’s #1 film in the US; it’s about to hit a slow part of the movie calendar, but it’s in good position to stay ahead of both of them.  Even more important is the movie’s performance overseas.  After 10 days of release, Catching Fire is just $6.7M behind the entire international box office of Hunger Games with $276.5M ($92.5M this weekend alone), and Japan still to open.  It seems likely to end with at least $850M worldwide, and $900M isn’t out of reach.

OPENINGS:  That still left plenty of room for FROZEN (Disney), which also broke the previous 3-day and 5-day Thanksgiving records with $66.7M and $93M and now owns the records for movies opening that week–far ahead of Toy Story 2, which had $80.2M over the 5 day holiday.  Frozen should have a solid month of play ahead, with only Walking With Dinosaurs competing for the family audience.  It‘s just started overseas, earning $16.7M this weekend in a few territories.

Audiences didn’t have much interest in anything else.  HOMEFRONT (Open Road) had $9.8M over the 5 day holiday, at the low end of Jason Statham’s openings despite the holiday boost.  BLACK NATIVITY (Fox Searchlight) fared even worse with $5M over 5 days.  (It was in a moderate 1516-theatre release, but that was just slightly lower than The Best Man Holiday a couple of weeks ago, which opened with $30.1M in 3 days.)  Searchlight marketed the film heavily to African-American and Christian audiences, and it’s not clear why they utterly failed to respond.  Worst of all was Spike Lee’s OLDBOY (FilmDistrict), practically invisible with $1.25M over 5 days; even with a barely-wide 583 theatre opening, the 3-day part of its weekend had a dreadful $1500 per-theatre average.  Lee has always struggled to raise financing for the films he wants to make, and this won’t make his battles any easier.

The holiday’s expansions were quiet at best.  Over the 3-day portions of their weekends, THE BOOK THIEF (20th) averaged just $3900 at 1234 theatres, and PHILOMENA (Weinstein) averaged $4500 at 835.  (That latter number includes an extremely aggressive Sunday studio estimate, so it may not hold tomorrow.)  Both will need help from critics’ awards and Top 10 lists, which will begin to appear next week.

HOLDOVERS:  THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney) passed the first Thor in the US this weekend with $186.7M earned to date.  It’s far from done after $11.1M over the Fri-Sun weekend.  Overseas, Dark World is now at $404M ($12M this weekend), way ahead of the first Thor‘s $268.3M.  THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (Universal) held well with $8.5M over the 3-day weekend and $63.4M so far.  Considering how badly DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks/Disney) opened last week, it performed strongly over the holiday, down just 13% Fri-Sun to $6.9M–but still with only $19.5M after 10 days.

GRAVITY (Warners) is nearing the tail end of its US run with a $2.6M weekend ($249.7M), but it’s doing blockbuster business in China, where it’s earned $55.6M to date and $20.7M this weekend.  Its overseas total is $365.6M, and with Japan still to open, it will go over $650M worldwide.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus/Universal) held extremely well, down just 3% from last weekend despite adding just a handful of new theatres, and a Fri-Sun average of $3700 at 696 theatres.  12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) is losing box office momentum, down more than 300 theatres and with an average below $2K at 1165, but it can expect to do extremely well in next week’s critics awards.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The only new arrival was MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein), which had an OK $25K average at 4 NY/LA theatres.  NEBRASKA (Paramount) expanded to 102 theatres with a decent $7K 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."