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Weekend Top Ten: ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Frozen’ Take Off

Weekend Top Ten: 'Catching Fire' and 'Frozen' Take Off

One expected blockbuster, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” easily matched expectations with a record gross for the season of $161 million, while the next tentpole up, Disney’s animated musical “Frozen,” took in nearly $270,000 on a single Los Angeles screen in advance of its national rollout next pre-holiday Wednesday.

But “Catching Fire” took a chunk out of the box office of other films that had been doing well; they sustained bigger than usual drops, because of stiff competition but many also lost holdover dates or complete show schedules as theaters worked overtime to provide maximum screens and seating for the “Hunger Games” sequel. Beyond the damage to the top 10, the toll was also heavy on Lionsgate’s other release “Ender’s Game” and Sony’s “Captain Phillips,” both of which lost more dates than normal. And with Disney’s “Frozen” now set to grab many more screens and grab strong business this week, the bloodbath will only intensify.

Total business for the Top 10 was $217 million, most of it from “Catching Fire,” an increase from $199 million a year ago, which because of calendar shifting was Thanksgiving weekend. Disturbingly, year-to-date business is down almost 2% compared to 2012, after a sustained period when parity had been reached.

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 75

$161,125,000 in 4,163 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $38,704,000; Cumulative: $161,125,000

A surprisingly strong Saturday, not only due to good word of mouth but an older than expected audience (50% over 25, a demographic more likely to go out later in the weekend) propelled the second “Hunger Games” entry into record territory. This is the (unadjusted for inflation) biggest opening gross for any film not opening in May or July, and it achieved this with standard 2-D presentation and a nearly 2.5 hour length. It also, more significantly, bettered the first entry (by about $6 million).

Though it fell a bit short of the high-end of domestic expectations — which included possibly topping “Iron Man 3” as the top 2013 opener — it did sell more tickets overall (the Marvel/Disney film had a boost from 3-D), and best of all for Lionsgate, the foreign take is showing a big jump from last time. It took in $146 million overseas, with the full worldwide total now at $307,700,000 million (Brazil opened a week early). This is significant, since “Hunger Games” was the rare blockbuster with foreign grosses below domestic ($283 vs. $408 million).

These totals more than justify the expense ($130 million before marketing, high for a non-summer release, but still thrifty for this level of project). As with the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series, this has producer (Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik) but not director Francis Lawrence replaced Gary Ross as director) continuity. Lawrence, a Grammy-winning video director, has had commercial success (“I Am Legend”) and has committed to the next two sequels This is clearly a tentpole series made with care and smarts.

What comes next: Timed perfectly to hold well going into the strong holiday period ahead, this might not outgross the first entry domestically (grosses for all films will drop sharply after next Sunday), but this still is a terrific opening by any standards, more so with the stronger international take.

2. Thor: The Dark World (Buena Vista) Week 3 – Last weekend #1

$14,117,000 (-61%)in 3,713 theaters (-128); PSA: $3,802; Cumulative: $167,837,000

“Catching Fire” stole “Thor”‘s thunder this weekend, but the collapse was hardly total, as the latest Marvel entry held on to second place and positioned itself to overtake the initial film’s U.S. gross by next weekend. But domestic is the smaller part of the story. Through this weekend, the rest of the world (with Japan not set to open until next year) is already up to $381 million, for a combined total of $549 million so far. In other words, with lots more to come, even with a $170 million budget, a significant success, if not close to the high end of past Marvel movies.

What comes next: This will easily pass $200 million domestic and could hit $700 million total worldwide.

3. The Best Man Holiday (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #2

$12,500,000 (-58%) in 2,041 theaters (+17); PSA: $6,135; Cumulative: $50,400,000

This comedy received an extraordinary A+ Cinemascore last weekend, which usually suggests good word of mouth and a great hold ahead. Instead, despite the absence of direct demographic competition, this took an unexpectedly big fall. The gross is strong enough to get this through the holiday, where it should stabilize and realize the promise of a decent profit the initial weekend suggested.

What comes next: Universal already fast-tracked the next sequel with director-writer Malcolm Lee this past week.

4. Delivery Man (Buena Vista) NEW (Cinemascore: B+ ; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 43

$8,215,000 in 3,036 theaters; PSA: $2,706; Cumulative: $8,215,000

Dreamworks Productions non-animated problems continue. Following the disastrous “The Fifth Estate” a few weeks ago, which in wide release reached only $3.2 million, they now have another failure to deal with. This roughly $25 million production failed to deliver as counterprogramming, even coming during a period when some comedies seem to be overachieving.

A remake of the Quebecois local hit “Starbuck” (released in the U.S. earlier this year by EOne, only grossing $340,000), this story of a one-time sperm donor who finds out years later that he has hundreds of biological children was backed with a major TV campaign, so awareness was hardly the issue. Star Vince Vaughn is often reliable enough to achieve a $12 million or better opening. But audiences may have been burned in the past: this turns out to be the first of his 16 previous starring films to open wide and not gross at least $10 million. Even badly reviewed “The Internship,” “The Watch” and “The Dilemma” all ranged between $12-17 million, so this result comes as a major disappointment.

Original writer-director Ken Scott did the remake, which, as with all of Dreamworks’ live action films, is distributed by Buena Vista.

What comes next: The competition gets tougher right away, but at least there aren’t any new comedies, so any sort of good audience reaction will give this a chance to stabilize a bit.

5. Free Birds (Relativity) Week 4 – Last weekend #4

$5,300,000 (-%) in 3,071 theaters (-439); PSA: $1,726; Cumulative: $48,594,000

Maintaining solid placement in its fourth week, and guaranteeing at least matinee showings going into next week, this still hasn’t grossed its pre-marketing cost of $55 million. With “Frozen” taking over at the animated film of choice on Wednesday, this doesn’t have much more to add to its domestic take, so this will need strong international sales to make it a success.

What comes next: Despite all the high-end animated grossers, this flop reminds that it’s not a risk-free genre even when done less expensively.

6. Last Vegas (CBS) Week 4 – Last weekend #3

$4,400,000 (-48%) in 2,926 theaters (-311); PSA: $1,504; Cumulative: $53,926,000

Taking something of a hit after three solid weeks, this “Hangover” for the Medicare set is now a few dollars shy of overtaking “The Woman in Black” as CBS’s top-grosser so far. More importantly, this gross positions them to keep playing for a few more weeks in most theaters.

What comes next: Will this be the last “Vegas”? Look for a sequel announcement, which may depend on international results (which are still preliminary).

7. Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa (Paramount) Week 5 – Last weekend #5

$3,450,000 (-53%) in 2,625 theaters (-565); PSA: $1,314; Cumulative: $95,451,000

Coming down to earth, but still doing well enough to push this close to a better-than-expected $100 million.

What comes next: Can “Bad Grandma” be too far away?

8. Gravity (Warner Bros.) Week 8 – Last weekend #6

$3,905,000 (-46%) in 1,845 theaters (-715); PSA: $1,791; Cumulative: $245,503,000

Falling the most it has in any weekend, with a particularly big fall in theaters and also losing full showtimes at some of those remaining, this long-running hit (which just opened in China to large numbers) is approaching $250 million domestically, which despite attrition it should reach soon.

What comes next: This will take another big hit with next Wednesday’s new openings.

9. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) Week 6 – Last weekend #8

$2,800,000 (-39%) in 1,474 theaters (+63); PSA: $1,900; Cumulative: $29,393,000

This took its biggest drop this weekend, with the PSA down even more (with the small uptick in theaters), but more important, “Slave” is on the verge of overtaking “Blue Jasmine” as the biggest specialized release of the year (the latter over $32 million as of now), a total within sight for this awards frontrunner.

What comes next: This should sustain a strong majority of these through the holiday despite major competition for screen space.

10. Dallas Buyers Club (Focus) Week 4 – Last weekend #12

$2,761,000 (+59%) in 666 theaters (+482); PSA: $4,159; Cumulative: $6,450,000

Rapidly expanding (adding on this week means lucrative holiday playdates), this Matthew McConaughey film placed in the top 10 despite relatively few theaters. The results overall though fall short of roughly the same stage for Focus’ earlier expansions of “The Place Beyond the Pines” or “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (both of which ended up over $20 million total). The PSA is also less than 75% of “12 Years a Slave” in its fourth weekend, when that film had nearly twice as many theaters, again reinforcing that “Dallas” remains more of a niche release, at least at this point

What comes next: With its early November release, this will be able to sustain some theatrical presence for the weeks ahead, then relaunch in January when awards attention is at its peak.

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