It was feast or famine at this year’s Thanksgiving box office, as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen eclipsed all other offerings. Both films did better business than forecast and each surpassed long-standing records for the holiday frame. Homefront and Black Nativity saw the flipside of Thanksgiving’s bounty, but overall grosses were still high enough to make this the biggest Thanksgiving box office of all time.
|3.||Thor: The Dark World||$11,108,000||$15.49||$186.7|
|4.||The Best Man Holiday||$8,491,000||$11.12||$63.4|
|7.||The Book Thief||$4,850,000||$6.4||$7.8|
On the heels of its monster opening last weekend, Catching Fire continued to burn bright all through the long holiday frame. On Monday we learned that the sequel’s debut estimate ($161.1 million) had been a bit too high. Lionsgate’s official figure of $158 million knocked Catching Fire down to sixth place on the list of highest box office openings (behind both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), but had no effect on the film’s forward momentum. Catching Fire has now earned an estimated $296.5 million in North America, putting it ahead of both Iron Man 3 and The Dark Knight Rises after ten days in theatres.
In terms of Thanksgiving grosses, Catching Fire is now the undisputed champion for both the three-day and five-day period. The previous record of $57.4 million (weekend) and $82.3 million (holiday) was set by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone way back in 2001. Catching Fire was down 53% on its second weekend: an excellent hold considering how huge the sequel was coming out of the gate. On this weekend last year, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was off by 69%, and The Hunger Games declined 61% on its own sophomore frame.
The holiday grosses for Catching Fire were expected to break records, but that was not the case for Frozen. Back in 2010, Disney Animation had a big Thanksgiving hit with Tangled, which opened to $48.7 for the three-day weekend and $68.7 for the holiday frame. Prior to the film’s Wednesday opening, it seemed unlikely that Frozen would be able to top Tangled, never mind the all-time Thanksgiving record. But that is just what happened. From 3,742 locations, Frozen took in an estimated $66.7 million this weekend and $93 million for the five-day holiday. In addition to beating the aforementioned record of the first Harry Potter film, that also gives Frozen the record for the highest Thanksgiving debut of all time. The previous record was $57.3 million/$80.1 million, set by Toy Story 2 in 1999.
Aside from the week’s two new record-breakers, box office grosses were on the thin side this Thanksgiving. At this time last year, the playing field was more evenly balanced – with Skyfall, Life of Pi and Lincoln all putting up strong numbers despite the dominance of the final Twilight Saga film. This year’s counter-programmers were far less successful. Open Road was hoping to hit $15 million in five days with Homefront. Instead, the R-rated action-thriller starring Jason Statham took in $6.9 million on its first weekend and less than $10 million for the holiday frame. That is just a bit higher than Statham’s Parker realized… in January.
Compared to Homefront, Black Nativity looked a bit more robust – but only because it opened in fewer locations. The holiday musical starring Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson launched in 1,516 locations on Wednesday (Homefront opened the same day in 2,570 venues) and was also hoping to hit $15 million through Sunday. Black Nativity took in just five million instead, though its per-theatre average came close to Homefront’s. More impressive than either of those new releases, however, was the expansion of The Book Thief. After playing in limited engagements for almost two weeks, the drama did surprisingly well in wider release. From 1,234 locations, The Book Thief took in an estimated $4.8 million this weekend, or about what Black Nativity earned after five days.
The box office will serve up its traditional Thanksgiving leftovers next weekend. With the launch of The Hobbit sequel still a week away, Thanksgiving’s big winners will get another week to stretch their legs. It will be another big week for Catching Fire, though after this weekend’s debut, there is a good chance that Frozen will come out on top on its sophomore frame.