It is a rare event when four new wide releases debut on the same weekend. But Thanksgiving is also a once-a-year event and this weekend’s quartet of new arrivals are all trying to capitalize on the annual surge in moviegoing over this ten-day holiday stretch.
Out of this group, the highest profile movie is THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES, the fifth chapter in THE HUNGER GAMES franchise. It is joined by Universal’s TROLLS BAND TOGETHER, Sony’s THANKSGIVING, and Searchlight’s NEXT GOAL WINS.
The new arrivals helped the weekend gross rise to $115.3M, an 11% improvement over last year’s $102.5M on this same weekend, which was led by BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER with $66.4M in its second weekend.
THE HUNGER GAMES series is one of the two most precious jewels in Lionsgate’s franchise crown, with TWILIGHT being the other. SONGBIRDS & SNAKES matched pre-release expectations by earning $44.0M and won the weekend comfortably. However, this result was far below the pace set by the previous movie of the franchise.
All four HUNGER GAMES movies to date have grossed nearly $3B worldwide. They were also extremely profitable, with a ratio of 6 to 1 comparing worldwide box office to production cost. This is quite impressive since the rule of thumb in the industry is that a movie begins to make money when this ratio reaches 2.5 to 1.
Lionsgate worked with the series’ author Suzanne Collins to craft a storyline that would bring back fans of the earlier movies, drive interest with a new generation, and transition away the focus on Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Katniss Everdeen.
SONGBIRDS & SNAKES is a prequel to the other stories, going back 64 years to the early days of The Hunger Games contests. Coriolanus Snow, who will later become President of Panem, is only 18 years old and is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Bird, the female tribute from impoverished District 12.
Even with an opening weekend gross of $44.0M, a mere 33% of the $133.8M average box office for the earlier films, the current movie is still likely to be profitable given its prime release date and relatively modest production budget of $100M, which is $60M less than the last HUNGER GAMES movie cost eight years ago.
SONGBIRDS & SNAKES stars Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Bird and Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and even though it has received a so-so critics score of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes it has a much higher 91% score from audiences. A business model that produces an acceptable box office on a lower budget could represent the best way forward for mature franchises, allowing new movies to be made with more reasonable expectations for audience response and box office.
TROLLS BAND TOGETHER finished in second place with an opening weekend gross of $30.6M. This is the third chapter in THE TROLLS franchise of animated family films, which began with a surprisingly strong $46.6M opening weekend on October 13-15, 2016, and went on to earn a total of $154M domestic and $347.2M worldwide.
A second movie TROLLS WORLD TOUR was released at the height of the pandemic on April 10, 2020, and as a result, it was watched mostly on Peacock, the in-house streaming service of Comcast/Universal. Even so, it managed a worldwide box office of $49.3M and Universal believed enough in the franchise to create a third film.
TROLLS BAND TOGETHER brings back the original cast of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake and features plenty of music to entertain its young audiences. The colorful trolls have not won over critics, rating it 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, but moviegoers love it despite the professionals, giving it a 93% score.
Next Wednesday, Disney’s WISH will open as direct competition for the same audience, making it a challenge for BAND TOGETHER to sell enough to match their production budget of $95M.
In third place, Disney’s THE MARVELS took in $10.2M in its second weekend, a steep drop of 78% from its $46.2M debut, which was already a record low for the 33 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the past 15 years.
Disney had hoped that results would stabilize in subsequent weeks, but this 78% second-weekend drop ranks as one of the worst for any major film, regardless of studio or genre.
THE MARVELS’ ten-day gross is now $65.0M domestically. After spending $200M to produce the movie, it seems impossible for Disney to make back its investment and avoid the curse of the much-talked-about superhero decline.
Sony’s holiday horror flick THANKSGIVING took fourth place this weekend with $10.1M. This well-timed holiday release seeks to tap into the expanded moviegoing audience at this time of year when idle college and high school students are looking for escapes from family obligations.
THANKSGIVING’s start does not measure up to FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S stunning $80M opening from 10/27-10/29 but we predict that THANKSGIVING’s second weekend drop won’t be anywhere near as steep as the 76% suffered by FREDDY’S. The story revolves around a 2022 Black Friday riot in Plymouth, Massachusetts in which several shoppers were crushed to death.
Revenge plays a role that causes the sheriff difficulties in trying to restore calm in the town that inspired the American holiday. Patrick Dempsey stars as Sheriff Eric Newton, with an affirming nod from both critics and audiences, giving it an 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes. With a slim production budget of $15M, this one is certain to be profitable.
Speaking of FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S, the season’s most successful horror film came in fifth place this weekend with $3.5M in new ticket sales, adding up to a very healthy box office total of $132.6M domestic, making it the highest grossing horror film of 2023.
Searchlight’s NEXT GOAL WINS also opened this weekend and finished in seventh place, with $2.5M in domestic ticket sales. This historic soccer film chronicles the woeful exploits of a soccer team from America Samoa.
With a limited release at only seven locations, SALTBURN earned $315K and an extremely high per-location average of $45,070. The movie was directed by Academy Award winner Emerald Fennel (PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN) and tells a story of privilege, desire, and deceit. This highly charged movie is a hard “R” based on graphic sexual content. It is targeted for a much wider release, starting as soon as this Wednesday, before the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend.
WHERE ARE WE AS OF 11/16
After 45 weeks, the year-to-date box office stands at 122% compared with this point in 2022, and 83% compared with totals from 2019.