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HomeBox OfficeBox office: Hunger Games Prequel Continues the November Doldrums

Box office: Hunger Games Prequel Continues the November Doldrums

After a terrific October at the box office with two megahits in Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour and Five Nights at Freddy’s, November took a tumble with Marvel Studios‘ The Marvels opening well below expectations. That trend continued with the release of four new movies in wide release, three of them disappointing compared to expectations.

The second-biggest release of November was going to be Lionsgate‘s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the prequel to the Suzanne Collins young adult book series that led to four movies grossing almost $3 billion worldwide. The only one returning from that blockbuster franchise was director Francis Lawrence, as the movie instead told the story of Capital President Coriolanus Snow, as played by Tom Blyth, through his romance with Rachel Zegler‘s Lucy Gray Baird, a District 12 tribute in the deadly annual games.

The movie received generally decent reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and the movie was tracking well with ticket sales reportedly doing even better than The Marvels, but it still only ended up with $5.8 million in Thursday previews and $19.1 million on Friday (including those previews). It ended up making an estimated $44 million in its first weekend, which is less than the final chapter in the previous serious, The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part II, grossed in its opening day. (It’s also slightly less than the opening for The Marvels last weekend.)

Falling more in line with tracking was DreamWorks Animation‘s animated sequel Trolls Band Together, released by Universal Pictures into 3,870 North American theaters after a number of weeks playing internationally. Trolls came into the weekend with worse reviews than The Hunger Games but it since has ended up closer to it with 61% on Rotten Tomatoes.

It made $1.3 million in Thursday previews (on top of another $1.2 million in earlier previews), and it ended up making $9.4 million on Friday, then getting a nice bump over the weekend to bring its domestic opening to $30.6 million. That’s lower than the $46.6 million opening for the original Trolls in 2016, but better than Trolls World Tour, which ended up being dumped to streamer Peacock due to the pandemic.

Trolls Band Together added another $6.7 million internationally, for an overseas total of $76.3 million and global cume of $108.1 million. We’ll have to see how it holds up against direct competition from Disney‘s Wish when that opens on Tuesday.

A scene from Thanksgiving (Sony/TriStar Pictures)

At the time of this writing, third place is a dead tie between Eli Roth‘s seasonal slasher, Thanksgiving, and The Marvels with an estimated $10.2 million apiece. Roth’s new horror film opened in 3,204 theaters on Friday with the best reviews for movies opening this weekend at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, actually Roth’s best reviews as a director — you can read my Above the Line review here.

After making just a million in Thursday previews, Thanksgiving business picked up with $3.8 million on Friday, leading to an estimated $10.2 million opening weekend. That’s lower than what was projected for the weekend, but still not bad considering the movie’s reported $15 million production budget.

UPDATE: Based on actual numbers on Monday, Thanksgiving actually made $10.3 million, while The Marvels only made $10.1 million, so it will have to settle for fourth place.

In the meantime, The Marvels took a massive 78% tumble in its second weekend, dropping to third/fourth place (depending on actuals) with $10.2 million for a domestic total of $65 million. Depending on how it fares over Thanksgiving, and if it loses even more theaters the weekend after, The Marvels may be struggling to get to $100 million domestic, a first for Marvel Studios. It’s doing better overseas where it added another $19.5 million for an international total of $96.3 million and global total of $161.3 million. Still not good when compared to previous Marvel movies. (Columnist Neil Turitz addressed the “troubles with Marvel” in his latest “Accidental Turitz” column.)

Fifth place went to Universal/Blumhouse‘s Five Nights at Freddy’s with $3.5 million, down 61% from last weekend but with $132.6 million grossed domestically, which is a huge hit for Blumhouse. The movie has grossed even more overseas with $139.2 million, adding another $9.9 million this weekend, to bring its global total to $271.8 million. That makes it the highest-grossing horror movie of 2023 over The Nun II.

Alexander Payne‘s The Holdovers expanded into 1,478 theaters (700 more than last weekend) where it took in $2.7 million (down 16%) to take sixth place with $8.4 million grossed domestically so far. There’s still plenty of more room to expand this crowdpleaser going into awards season, and we’ll have to see whether Focus Features grabs more theaters over Thanksgiving or waits until December.

Kaimaa (L), Michael Fassbender in Next Goal Wins (Searchlight Studios)

Probably the biggest bomb of the weekend had to be Taika Waititi‘s sports comedy, Next Goal Wins, which Searchlight Studios opened in 2,240 theaters with generally bad reviews stemming from its TIFF debut. It ended up making just $2.5 million over the weekend or $1,116 per theater, and its “B+” CinemaScore doesn’t make the movie seem as “crowdpleasing” as Waititi’s earlier films.

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour and Sofia Coppola‘s Priscilla followed in eighth and ninth place with $2.4 and $2.3 million respectively, the former having a 61% drop-off compared to the latter’s 51%, both of them losing theaters on Friday.

MGM opened Emerald Fennell‘s Saltburn, starring Barry KeoghanJacob Elordi, and Archie Madekwe, in just seven theaters ahead of its wide release this coming Wednesday. It did decently with $315.5k, averaging $45k per theater, which isn’t a bad start for a movie that might have trouble finding an audience outside big cities.

On Tuesday, Disney releases its latest animated movie, Wish — look for our review of that soon — while Apple teams with Sony to release Ridley Scott‘s Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby. You can read Above the Line‘s review of that one here.

Weekend Box Office

Rank Entry Distributor Revenue Theater Count Total Revenue
1 The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Lionsgate $44,000,000 3,776 $44,000,000
2 Trolls Band Together Universal $30,600,000 3,870 $31,770,000
3 Thanksgiving Sony Pictures $10,300,000 3,204 $10,300,000
4 The Marvels Walt Disney $10,100,000 4,030 $65,024,806
5 Five Nights at Freddy’s Universal $3,500,000 2,829 $132,612,000
6 The Holdovers Focus Features $2,700,000 1,478 $8,357,000
7 Next Goal Wins Searchlight Pictures $2,500,000 2,240 $2,500,000
8 TAYLOR SWIFT | THE ERAS TOUR AMC Theatres Distribution $2,400,000 1,573 $175,300,000
9 Priscilla A24 $2,326,380 1,802 $16,982,259
10 Killers of the Flower Moon Paramount Pictures $1,920,000 1,714 $63,570,000
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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