Weekend Box Office (December 6 - 8, 2013)
THIS WEEKEND Thanksgiving's most popular leftovers topped the charts with a twist as the Disney animated smash Frozen climbed from second place into the number one spot with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire settling for the runner-up spot this time. The weekend after the busy turkey frame always sees significant belt-tightening and the box office predictably dropped 55% from a week ago. But powered by the awesome twosome, ticket sales were substantially higher than last year and 2011.
The icy animated musical sensation Frozen displayed fantastic staying power and captured the top spot with an estimated $31.6M setting a new record for this particular weekend. The previous best showing ever on the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday frame - whether new release or holdover - was $27.8M by Toy Story 2 back in 1999. Frozen benefitted from higher ticket prices and 3D surcharges, but still to break $30M on what historically is one of the year's slowest weekends is incredible.
Frozen now sits at a solid $134.3M and should be on track to surpass the $250M mark domestically. The studio's Tangled stood at $96.6M at the same point in time and went on to double that amount by the end of the holiday season. With glowing word-of-mouth and no major competition for the rest of the year, the snow sisters should have much more treasure ahead of them.
Expanding into new overseas markets, Frozen collected $30.6M this weekend from 23 offshore territories boosting the early cume to $55.9M and the worldwide haul to $190.2M. The U.K. opened to $7.4M over three days while France bowed to $5.8M across five days. Many major markets are still to come including Italy, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, and Japan.
After two weeks as the victor, Catching Fire dropped down to second place thanks to it suffering a larger decline than Disney's ice toon did. The newest Katniss smash fell a steep 64% to an estimated $27M boosting the cume to a towering $336.7M. That puts it 11% ahead of the first Hunger Games movie at the same point in its run, although the 2012 pic had a stronger third weekend take of $33.1M helped in part by Easter.
Among recent November book sequel tentpoles, Catching Fire continues to play more like Harry Potter than Twilight. Declines on this post-holiday frame for the last two November wizards flicks were 65% for 2010's Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 64% for 2005's Goblet of Fire. Catching Fire may still crack $400M domestic, though much of that will depend on how well it holds up once the holiday season's next tentpole The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug arrives this Friday.
Overseas sales were still red hot as Fire took in an estimated $44.3M from 83 markets boosting the international cume to $336.7M - identical to domestic. The worldwide tally stands at a fantastic $673.4M with the Lionsgate blockbuster set to cross the $700M mark (and maybe even $750M) next weekend. The Japan release is still to come on December 27.
The weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday frame is usually ruled by leftovers, not new releases. This year was no different. Opening in third place with weak results was the session's only new wide opener - Out of the Furnace starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck - with an estimated $5.3M from 2,101 locations for a lackluster $2,523 average. Critics and audiences alike were mostly unimpressed with the Relativity release as reviews were mixed and the CinemaScore grade was a disappointing C+. It is common for studios to quietly dump weak product into weekends like these.
A pair of Disney releases followed giving the studio three titles in the top five. Marvel production Thor: The Dark World fell 57% to an estimated $4.7M upping the super hero total to $193.6M. An additional $416.7M from international markets has raised the global tally to a stellar $610.3M - 36% better than its 2011 predecessor's final gross. Vince Vaughn's comedy flop Delivery Man took in an estimated $3.8M, off 45%, for a disappointing $24.8M to date.
Jason Statham's latest action offering Homefront fell 51% in its sophomore round to an estimated $3.4M giving Open Road $15.3M in 12 days. Universal's comedy sequel The Best Man Holiday collected an estimated $2.7M, down a steep 67%, making the cume $67.2M. Period drama The Book Thief declined by 45% to an estimated $2.7M as well putting Fox at a soft $12.1M.
A pair of awards hopefuls rounded out the top ten. Judi Dench's Philomena enjoyed the lowest decline among all wide releases as it eased 38% to an estimated $2.3M putting The Weinstein Co. at $8.3M as it targets a mature crowd. The Matthew McConaughey-Jared Leto pic Dallas Buyers Club has been picking up some acting awards and grossed an estimated $1.5M, down 42%. The Focus release has taken in $12.4M to date. Both films posted mild averages in national release and will fight to keep their screens as more specialty titles begin launching during the final weeks before the Oscar deadline.
Backed by glowing reviews plus Oscar-winning and brand-name filmmakers, Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen brothers launched to sensational results in platform release with an estimated $402,000 from just four locations in New York and Los Angeles for a jaw-dropping $100,500 average per theater. Selling out shows throughout the weekend, the CBS Films release got a boost last week when it won Best Picture at the Gotham Awards and was named one of the ten best films of the year by the National Board of Review. Among arthouse films, Davis joins Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine from July in having this year's best opening weekend averages for platform releases. That film averaged a similar $102,011 from six sites. Davis will expand on December 20 and then go nationwide in January after Christmas tentpoles subside.
Among holdovers, awards hopeful 12 Years A Slave fell 51% to an estimated $1.1M and has collected an impressive $35M in its eighth week for Fox Searchlight. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom stayed in four theaters for a second weekend and grossed an estimated $77,000, slipping just 8% on the first weekend after the death of the legendary South African leader. Total for The Weinstein Co. is $183,000 and the average was a moderate $19,413.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $85M which was up 24% from last year when Skyfall reclaimed number one in its fifth round with $10.8M; and up 33% from 2011 when New Year's Eve opened in the top spot with $13M.
Compared to projections, Out of the Furnace was on target with my $5M forecast.
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Be sure to check back on Monday for final figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and A Madea Christmas both open on Friday the 13th.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: December 8, 2013 at 3:20PM ET
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