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Hunger Games prequel, ‘Napoleon’ lead as Thanksgiving box office shows signs of life


Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler star as Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird in Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

Lionsgate

This year’s Thanksgiving box office was both feast and famine for the theatrical industry.

Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” had a solid second week run in cinemas, generating an estimated $42 million for the five-day Thanksgiving frame and Apple’s “Napoleon,” an R-rated war epic distributed by Sony, snared around $32.5 million.

Meanwhile, Disney’s latest animated feature “Wish,” which celebrates the company’s 100th anniversary, fell startlingly short of box office expectations, tallying just $31.7 million over its first five days in theaters. Analysts had foreseen an opening of $45 million to $55 million for the five-day period.

“It wouldn’t be a holiday box office season without some occasional upsets and this weekend is delivering on that front,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “‘Napoleon’ is a solid win for Sony, Apple, theaters and moviegoers all around. Another successful adult-driven film was needed right now after the vacancy left behind by ‘Dune: Part Two’ and the light holiday calendar still ahead.”

Top Thanksgiving box office titles (five-day)

  • “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” (Lionsgate) — $42 million
  • “Napoleon” (Apple/Sony) — $32.5 million
  • “Wish” (Disney) — $31.7 million
  • “Trolls Band Together” (Universal) — $25.3 million
  • “Thanksgiving” (Sony) — $11.13 million
  • “The Marvels” (Disney) — $9.2 million
  • “The Holdovers” (Focus Features/Universal) — $3.75 million
  • “Saltburn” (Amazon MGM/Warner Bros. Discovery) — $2.72 million
  • “Next Goal Wins” (Disney) — $2.57 million
  • “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Universal) — $2.5 million
  • Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour concert film (AMC) — $2.33 million

** All figures are estimated by studios

Yet, the underperformance of “Wish” continues to call attention to issues over at Disney’s animation studios, which have struggled to lure audiences back to theaters since the pandemic. For comparison, Universal’s “Trolls Band Together” managed to snag $25.3 million for the five-day period and it was the film’s second week in theaters.

“Disney’s ‘Wish’ is struggling to reach even the most conservative of expectations,” said Robbins. “It is a performance that again highlights the studio’s long road ahead to rebuild brand and audience confidence while making their films stand out as theatrical events again rather than have them be cannibalized by the impact of flailing streaming-focused strategies.”

Overall, the Thanksgiving box office secured around $172 million, an improvement over the previous three years of pandemic-pressured ticket sales. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the five-day Thanksgiving spread — consisting of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Sunday — had resulted in more than $250 million in ticket sales each year. 

Thanksgiving 5-day frame over the last decade

  • 2023 — $172 million (estimated)
  • 2022 — $122.8 million
  • 2021 — $142.7 million
  • 2020 — $21.4 million
  • 2019 — $263.4 million
  • 2018 — $315.6 million (biggest all-time Thanksgiving frame)
  • 2017 — $270.5 million
  • 2016 — $260.8 million
  • 2015 — $258.5 million
  • 2014 — $230.2 million
  • 2013 — $294.2 million

Source: Comscore

“This important period of Thanksgiving moviegoing has been solid though not earth-shattering,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “This week’s performance is encouraging for the industry, though at under $200 million, the total box office has not returned to the heyday years of pre-2020 levels.”

Still, Dergarabedian noted that the Thanksgiving box office offered moviegoers an eclectic selection of films across genres and age demographics, something that has been lacking in recent years.

“Overall, this is a positive step forward for Thanksgiving box office moviegoing traffic as the industry continues to learn how to navigate a rapidly evolving marketplace,” said BoxOffice.com’s Robbins.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal distributed “The Holdovers,” “Trolls Band Together” and “Five Nights at Freddy’s.”



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