Weekend Box Office: FROZEN Edges Out CATCHING FIRE for First; OUT OF THE FURNACE in Third

     December 8, 2013


Frozen managed to climb past Catching Fire on its second weekend in theatres, giving the Disney hit its first win with an estimated $31.6 million.  The sequel to The Hunger Games was not far behind with $27 million but,  after that, box office estimates dropped precipitously on this notoriously low-grossing post-Thanksgiving frame.

Title Weekend Total
1.  Frozen $31,641,000 $134.2
2.  Catching Fire $27,000,000 $336.6
3.  Out of the Furnace $5,300,000 $5.3
4.  Thor: The Dark World $4,740,000 $193.6
5.  Delivery Man $3,775,000 $24.8
6.  Homefront $3,384,000 $15.2
7.  The Book Thief
$2,700,000 $12
8.  The Best Man Holiday
$2,673,000 $67.2
9.  Philomena $2,282,000 $8.2
10.  Dallas Buyers Club $1,458,000 $12.4

out-of-the-furnace-posterI’m not sure when the major studios decided that the weekend following Thanksgiving was a bad time to launch a major movie, but I do know that it has remained box office gospel for at least the last fifteen years.  During that time there have been only a handful of big studio films that risked a post-holiday release date, and only one of those can be considered a (qualified) financial success.  That honor goes to The Last Samurai  – the Tom Cruise epic that opened to $24.2 million in 2003.  Samurai did not do great business in the US, but it was big overseas: taking in a worldwide total of $456 million.  But because 75% of that total was earned in countries that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, Samurai can hardly be used to prove that the post-holiday frame is a profitable one to launch a movie.

For the past few years, smaller distributors have taken advantage of the lack of new studio competition to debut smaller features.  It rarely works out.  2010’s The Warrior’s Way and 2012’s Killing Them Softly each failed to hit $7 million on the week following Thanksgiving.  This year’s contender didn’t fare any better.  Relativity’s Out of the Furnace went wide on Friday, taking in an estimated $5.3 million from 2,101 locations for its debut weekend.  That ranks as one of the lowest debuts ever for the distributor (they were also responsible for The Warrior’s Way) and is also the lowest wide opening for star Christian Bale since 2000’s American Psycho.

Back at the winning end of the chart,  Frozen was able to overtake Catching Fire on its second  weekend in theatres.  In fact, the only surprise for the new number one film came in its margin of victory: the race between the two holdovers was projected to be much closer.  Working in Disney favor was the fact that 2013 hasn’t provided family audiences an enticing option since September’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. With its 18% Rotten Tomatoes rating, Free Birds can hardly be called ‘enticing’.  Another advantage in battling Katniss was Frozen’s 3D ticket prices.

frozen-posterFrozen’s ascendancy in its second frame is reminiscent of this same week in 2010, when Tangled pushed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 out of first place.  Frozen is already a bigger hit than Tangled, however.  This weekend’s new number one was down just 53% from its holiday debut, bringing its domestic total up to $134.2 million after twelve days in wide release.  By comparison, Tangled had earned $96.5 million at the same point in its run.

On its third weekend in theatres, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was down by 63%.  The sequel has earned over $336 million in the US, putting it more than 10% ahead of the first Hunger Games after three weeks.  The film’s next big test will come on Friday, when it goes up against The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for the first time.

On the specialty market, CBS Films’ Inside Llewyn Davis had one of the best limited bows of the year this weekend.  From its initial four locations in New York and Los Angeles, the Coen Brothers feature took in an estimated $401,000.  That’s more than $100, 000 per venue, which is on par with the average that Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine realized from its initial run earlier this year.  Inside Llewyn Davis is expected to expand nationwide in January.

Overall box office grosses totaled $94.2 million – down from over $114 million on this weekend in 2012.   We can expect next weekend to trend negative as well – even with the much-anticipated Hobbit sequel hitting theatres.  Projections for the debut of The Desolation of Smaug are currently between $75-$80 million.  You may recall that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey set a new December record with its $84.6 million debut last year but, at this point, it doesn’t look like its follow-up will reach the same level.  But a lot can change in five days.   Where do you think The Hobbit 2 is headed?


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