The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes Wins The Weekend Box Office, While The Marvels Falls Hard

 Tom Blyth as Coriolauns Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes.
Tom Blyth as Coriolauns Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes.

This weekend was always going to see a major shakeup in the domestic Top 10 at the box office. With the Thanksgiving holiday arriving on Thursday, studios are packing theaters with major releases hoping to attract families to theaters, and as a result of this initiative, four new features were put into wide release. The results of this effort have proven to be mixed: while Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes opened softly by franchise standards and Nia DaCosta's The Marvels took a bad tumble, there are silver linings to observe with Walt Dohrn's Trolls Band Together and Eli Roth's Thanksgiving.

Check out the full Top 10 from this past weekend below, and join me after for analysis.

Weekend Box Office The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes November 17-19, 2023
Weekend Box Office The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes November 17-19, 2023

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes Opens At Number One, But Franchise Comparisons Aren't Great

Been having an Oscar-winning A-lister playing the lead role and the source material being extremely popular, The Hunger Games series was a big win in the mid-2010s. Opening weekend-wise, the films hit their peak with the second chapter, as Francis Lawrences: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire made $158.3 million in its first three days, but all of the films were massive hits that each made over $640 million at the worldwide box office. This in mind, it's not surprising that Lionsgate would want to try and recapture that magic – though the new prequel in theaters isn't exactly having matching success.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes has successfully claimed the title of "#1 Movie In America," but the results can't be seen as a total win. The movie, based on the novel of the same name, cost $100 million to produce (per Deadline) made $44 million in its opening weekend, which is clearly far below the establish standards of the franchise... though obviously those standards were set a decade ago with a completely different cast and place in the zeitgeist. There were hopes that the film could go over $50 million in its debut, but ticket sales fell short of that goal.

The saving grace may end up being the money that the blockbuster earns internationally. According to The Numbers, the worldwide box office numbers have been padded by $54.5 million coming in from overseas. That means that the film has just about already made its reported budget back – though that studio-provided figure doesn't factor in publicity and marketing costs among other expenses.

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes
Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes

It doesn't seem likely that The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes will be able to surpass $646.2 million at the box office, which is what Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (the lowest-earning title in the franchise) made before it exited theaters in 2015. But is a $250-300 million worldwide haul possible? That may not be outside the realm of possibility, and it would certainly see the film register as an overall win (and, as things presently stand, it would put the title inside the list of the Top 25 highest grossing titles of the year.

There are a lot of movies that are going to be gunning for the new action/adventure film's key demographics in the upcoming weeks, so it will be an interesting title to keep an eye on as we get into the final month of 2023.

The Marvels Ties With Thanksgiving Due To A Record Weekend-To-Weekend Drop

There are positives and negatives to be observed in the box office performance of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes, but it's hard to see a lot of good  in what's happening with The Marvels. As reported last week, the new Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster had the weakest opening weekend of any title in the history of the franchise, and now things have gone from bad to worse: the movie has suffered the worst post-debut weekend-to-weekend drop in the 15 year history of the MCU.

Earlier this year, Peyton Reed's Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania saw its numbers fall of a cliff following a strong debut – ticket sales dropping a rough 70 percent. The Marvels has unfortunately outdone that, as the $10.2 million it brought in from the last three days calculates to a 78 percent fall from its $46.1 million start. The movie has made only $65 million domestically to date and $161.3 million worldwide.

According to the early numbers, this puts The Marvels in a tie for third place with the new holiday-themed slasher film Thanksgiving – but $10.2 million means very different things to both of those films. While it represents a nadir for Marvel Studios from which the franchise will have to bounce back, it's a solid success for Eli Roth's latest.

The key to the differing perspectives, of course, is budget. The Marvel movie reportedly cost $270 million to produce, according to Forbes, but Variety says that Thanksgiving cost just $15 million. It's another post-pandemic example of low-budget horror (like Parker Finn's Smile, Zach Cregger's Barbarian and Gerard Johnstone's M3GAN) finding success while over-budged blockbusters (like James Mangold's Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny and Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1) falter.

Trolls Band Together Takes Over Second Place In The Animated Franchise's Return To The Big Screen

Like horror, animation has also had some significant big screen wins in 2023, with top titles including Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic's The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Peter Sohn's Elemental (which was originally called a bomb), and Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson, and Kemp Powers' Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse. At this stage, Trolls Band Together isn't quite operating at the level of those success stories, but it did just have a nice opening weekend that puts it on a good path.

The previous installment of this series, Walt Dohrn's Trolls: World Tour, didn't end up getting a domestic release because Universal Pictures opted to release it on PVOD in late 2020, but that hiccup in distribution evidently hasn't disrupted interest in the franchise on the big screen. Mike Mitchell's Trolls made $46.6 million when it debuted in 2016, and the $30.6 million brought in by its second sequel this weekend isn't too bad a drop comparatively.

Add that total to what the film has already made overseas (it came out in some territories in mid-October) and the feature has already eclipsed nine figures – having made $108.1 million to date. It will be curious to see how it does when another major animated feature, Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn's Wish from Walt Disney Animation Studios, arrives in theaters on Wednesday.

In addition to Wish, the middle of the week will also see the release of Ridley Scott's Napoleon and the expansion of Emerald Fennell's Saltburn to wide release. Be sure to head back here to CinemaBlend next Sunday to see how the titles shake up the Top 10, and to learn about all of the films coming out between now and the end of the year, check out our 2023 Movie Release Calendar.