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Top Ten: ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Frozen’ Gobble Up the Holiday Weekend Box Office

Top Ten: 'Catching Fire' and 'Frozen' Gobble Up the Holiday Weekend Box Office

Two huge films gobbled up almost 75% of the holiday weekend top 10 box office. The second week of “Catching Fire” and the wide opening of “Frozen” both amassed huge totals that blew all the other films away. However, the weekend total of $192 million fell $6 million short of last year, when six films grossed over $15 million for the three days (because of a calendar shift, in 2012 actually a week earlier) compared to only three this year.

Beyond the three top films, a variety of new releases, expansions and holdovers strictly modest business, contributing to the small drop. However, year-to-date now is once again close to parity to last year, with December — competing with a very strong performance in 2012 — holding the key to the annual total. It looks unlikely to beat last year at this point.

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) – Week 2; Last weekend #1

$74,500,000 (-53%) in 4,163, theaters (unchanged); PSA (per screen average): $17,896; Cumulative: $296,500,000

Here’s how strong the second weekend for this second “Hunger Games” film is: last year, “Breaking Dawn Part 2” at the same point had grossed $227 million, down 69% from its opening weekend, and through 10 days “Catching Fire” is $48 million ahead of what the first film did. The foreign take is nearly the same (unlike last time, when the international total was more than $100 million less than domestic), meaning that this has a shot to approach the $1 billion mark worldwide.

Both this and “Frozen” blew past existing 5-day Thanksgiving records (not adjusting for inflation). At $110 million, the most important indication from this is strongly positive audience response beyond what the first film received and a boosting of the series to an even higher level.

What comes next: Unlike “Breaking Dawn,” these numbers are big enough to keep this going strong through the lucrative Christmas season.

2. Frozen (Buena Vista) – Week 2; Last weekend #22 

$66,713,000 (+27,310%) in 3,742 theaters (+3,741); PSA: $17,828; Cumulative: $93,013,000

After its strong initial exclusive Los Angeles opening last weekend, “Frozen” broke out with a bang. The 5-day total of $92.7 million is $24 million more than Disney’s “Tangled” in 2010, and four times that of last year’s Dreamworks Animations’ “Rise of the Guardians.” In other words, very, very big, and likely just the start of a long run that could include Oscar wins and worldwide gross in the multiple hundreds of millions.

Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, this marks a major comeback for mainstream Disney storytelling. As usual, Disney assigned in-house creative people such as directors Chris Buck (“Surf’s Up”) and Jennifer Lee (who wrote last year’s “Wreck-It Ralph”) and producer Peter Del Vecho (a step ahead of the more modest “The Princess and the Frog” and “Winnie the Pooh”). At a cost of $150 million, “Frozen” needed to open strong. But with a rare A+ Cinemascore, it looks primed to just be starting a long run that should continue into the new year.

What comes next: This might actually compete for #1 next weekend. If it doesn’t, it might end up the biggest grosser never to reach that level.

3. Thor: The Dark Warrior (Buena Vista) – Week 4; Last weekend #2

$11,108,000 (-22%) in 3,286 theaters (-427); PSA: $3,480; Cumulative: $186,712,000

Now approaching $600 million worldwide, this significant Marvel Comics hit held on well with the domestic holiday making it the best performer outside of the two huge more recent hits.

What comes next: The Marvel success story continues, even with sky-high budgets (this was $170 million, $40 million more than “Catching Fire”), with this popular character (Chris Hemsworth) likely to come around again multiple times–not to mention his nemesis Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

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

$8,500,000 (-32%) in 1,717 theaters (-324); PSA: $4,945; Cumulative: $63,400,000

This fell a bit under a third for the holiday weekend, hurt just a tad by the opening of “Black Nativity.” It’s a different market than when the original “Best Man: was released in 1999, but the total gross so far is double the first go-round.

What comes next: The bad-grossing pre-Christmas weeks ahead will depress the numbers a bit, but this should end up close to the level of the best Tyler Perry comedies.

5. Homefront (Open Road) – NEW – Cinemascore: B ; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 38

$6,970,000 in 2,570 theaters; PSA: $2,570; Cumulative: $9,795,000

might have seemed a dicey film to open on such a congested weekend, but
two factors mitigated in its favor. Last year, FilmDistrict launched 
action entry “Red Dawn” on the same weekend, and surprised with a $21
million five-day total. Also, Open Road is co-owned by Regal and AMC,
the two largest theater chains, meaning the film had a far better chance
of getting a solid run than might have been the case for other

This fell far short of “Red Dawn”‘s result, despite a
cast led by Jason Statham and James Franco. Statham (who hasn’t starred
in a release for one of the big six studios since “Death Race” in 2008,
but has been a mainstay in actioners for Lionsgate and others, including
the “Expendables” films) had “Parker” earlier this year opening to $7
million. Franco — this is his eighth release for 2013 — has had three
standout releases this year ($100-million grossers “Oz: The Great and Powerful” and “This Is
the End” as well as indie hit “Spring Breakers”),
but a drug-war genre effort like this is not his normal fare.

came from a screenplay Sylvester Stallone wrote as a vehicle for his younger self, and was directed by Gary Fleder, who debuted with
“Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” then followed with his
biggest success “Kiss the Girls” before the later “Runaway Jury” and the
flop “The Express” in 2008. This had a reported budget of $22 million;
Open Road acquired this after it was completed.

What comes next: Not likely to more than double this gross domestically, though this might have some greater foreign success.

6. Delivery Man (Buena Vista) – Week 2; Last weekend #4

$6,931,000 (-13%) in 3,036 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,283; Cumulative: $19,453,000

The holiday weekend helped keep this to a minor fall from its disappointing opening take, although still not likely enough to turn this into a success despite its relatively low initial budget ($26 million).

What comes next: This looks to end up somewhere around $30 million domestic, which means it needs a solid foreign take (it is just in its early stages of release overseas) to turn it around.

7. The Book Thief (Twentieth Century Fox) – Week 4; Last weekend #16

$4,850,000 (+696%) in 1,234 theaters (+1,164); PSA: $3,930; Cumulative: $7,856.000

The holiday helped, but this was a tough weekend to go wide for this Berlin-set late 1930s drama, with significant advertising and the original book’s popularity helping it to get to a respectable if not spectacular gross. Head to head (this played at about 400 more theaters) this was about even with “Philomena,” which targets a similar audience.

What comes next: This should be able to sustain at least a couple more weeks at most theaters, but it will be tough at this level to sustain runs at more than a small number through the end of the month.

8. Black Nativity (20th Century-Fox) – NEW – Cinemascore: A- Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 49

$3,880,000 in 1,516 theaters; PSA: $2,559; Cumulative: $5,000,000

Judging from its Cinemascore, this updating of Langston Hughes’ work was well received by audiences, but the gross was less impressive. The PSA of around $2,500 is mediocre, more so for the playtime. And with the weeks ahead falling in the pre-Christmas slump, it will take major word of mouth to sustain this.

Fox Searchlight produced and oversaw the marketing, but as sometimes happens, turned over this wider-than-usual initial release to the parent company. It seems well-timed and cast with respected names (like recent success “The Best Man Holiday”), including Forest Whitaker fresh off of “The Butler,” Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson and Jennifer Hudson. With trailers attached to Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave,” it seemed set for modest success at a much higher opening level.

This is director Kasi Lemmon’s most expensive ($17.5 million) of her four specialized releases so far: the well-received “Eve’s Bayou” and “The Caveman’s Holiday” were limited, and the more widely released “Talk to Me” grossed $4.5 million. “Black Nativity” was backed by five producers, most significantly sometime-evangelist T.J. Jakes (who oversaw the film production of his play “Woman Thou Are Loosed” as well as “Sparkle”) and veteran William Horberg (“The Kite Runner,” “The Quiet American,” “Cold Mountain” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” among many others).

What comes next: This is going to need signs of life in terms of less than normal dropoff next weekend to have much chance of a longer shelf life.

9. Philomena (Weinstein) – Week 2; Last weekend #27

$3,789,000 (+2,850%) in 835 theaters (+831); PSA: $4,538; Cumulative: $4,754,000

Weinstein took a leap of faith going this wide so quickly, betting on the holiday weekend and Judi Dench’s appeal to older audiences to find a toe-hold. This started off weakly on Wednesday, but seemed to gain some momentum (its daily increases were ahead of average), suggesting good word of mouth and some potential ahead. The PSA is behind the fourth weekend of Dench’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which Searchlight took to over 1,200 runs (over Memorial Day weekend), suggesting this has a long way to go before matching that hit’s success.

What comes next: Dench is likely to start showing up in best actress races with the Golden Globe nods, and the high visibility and heavy early advertising are all part of TWC’s long-tern campaign.

10. Last Vegas (CBS) – Week 5; Last weekend #6

$2,785,000 (-36%) in 1,854 theaters (-1,072); PSA: $2,063; Cumulative: $58,722,000

Holding on in the top 10, and now CBS’ biggest release, this took a hit in theater count but saw its PSA rise by nearly 50%, showing that it continues to maintain strong word of mouth among older audiences.

What comes next: This is nearing its end, but has already established itself as a sleeper fall success.

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