Lionsgate’s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes opened to $44 million at the domestic box office, easily enough to win the weekend but coming in behind expectations. The event pic has plenty of time to make up ground over Thanksgiving week, one of the most lucrative corridors of the year at the box office.
Heading into the frame, tracking suggested the movie would devour at least $50 million in ticket sales as Lionsgate goes about the difficult task of trying to create a spinoff franchise. The studio remained hopeful on Saturday morning that the pic would come in on the higher end of the $45 million to $50 million range, but traffic slipped more than expected on Saturday.
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Overseas, the fifth title in the Hunger Games series started off with $54.5 million from 87 markets for a global opening of $98.5 million (foreign distributors financed much of the film when snapping up rights to their particular territories).
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes opens eight years after the last Hunger Games played in theaters and 12 years after the first film hit the big screen. The new movie earned a B+ CinemaScore, the lowest of the franchise. Female moviegoers made up the majority of Friday’s audience — or 64 percent.
The four Hunger Games films, based on Suzanne Collins’ dystopian YA novels, starred Jennifer Lawrence and all opened north of $100 million domestically on their way to raking in $2.9 billion at the global box office.
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is based on Collins’ book of the same name. Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth lead the cast of the prequel, which also stars Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman and Viola Davis. Francis Lawrence, who helmed three previous Hunger Games movies, returns in the director’s chair.
The dystopian action adventure kicked off the Thanksgiving box office alongside Universal and DreamWorks’ Trolls Band Together and TriStar and Spyglass Media Group’s slasher pic Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth.
Trolls Band Together came in second with $30.6 million, in line with expectations and more than enough for a second-place finish. The family pic may have put off critics, but audiences bestowed it with an A CinemaScore. Trolls Band Together has already opened in a number of markets overseas, where it is expected to finish Sunday with a foreign tally of $76.3 million and $108.1 million globally.
The threequel returns Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake to the roles of Poppy and Branch, who are now officially a couple. The movie was shepherded by returning director Walt Dohrn and producer Gina Shay. Similar to the Hunger Games prequel, the film is skewing female (69 percent of the audience for the movie in theaters).
The outlook remained bleak for superhero pic The Marvels, which fell 78 percent in its second outing to rank as Marvel Studios’ worst second-weekend drop of all time, as well as the worst for any Hollywood superhero pic in modern history. Among Marvel Cinematic Universe titles, threequel Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania previously sported the worst drop of 69 percent.
The Marvels earned an estimated $10.2 million for the weekend to tie with Thanksgiving. The final order will be determined Monday morning.
Overseas, the superhero tentpole took in another $19.5 million from 52 markets for a tepid foreign tally of $96.3 million and $161.3 million globally.
Roth’s latest horror offering earned a B- CinemaScore and skewed male (56 percent of the audience for the movie in theaters). Overseas, Thanksgiving earned $2.4 million from its first 11 markets for a global start of $12.6 million.
At the specialty box office, Oscar hopeful Saltburn opened in seven locations. The MGM and Amazon film scored a promising per-theater average of $45,100. Overseas, where Warner Bros. International is handling the British black comedy, Saltburn opened to $1.6 million from handful of markets, including $1.3 million in the U.K., where it is set.
And back in the top 10, awards contender The Holdovers (Focus Features) moved up the chart to No. 6 as it expanded nationwide, earning $2.7 million from 1,478 cinemas for an early domestic total of $8.4 million.
Searchlight’s specialty film Next Goal Wins (Searchlight) came in at No. 7 with an opening of $2.5 million from 2,240 theaters.
On Nov. 22, a Wednesday, Apple Original Films and Sony’s Napoleon and Disney Animation’s Wish take a seat at the Thanksgiving holiday table, among other offerings.
This story was originally published at Nov. 18 at 8:14 a.m.
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