Last year, the first full week and second weekend of a Hunger Games movie along with a family-friendly animated film dominated the Thanksgiving box office, and the new releases even took a backseat to holdover business from a big budget flick like Thor: The Dark World. This year, the holiday was again dominated by a Hunger Games movie, but Penguins of Madagascar was no Frozen. Horrible Bosses 2 failed set the world afire, but it at least made a bigger impression than last year’s Thanksgiving new releases: Homefront, Black Nativity, and Oldboy. In fact, the wealth was a little more evenly distributed this year. Last Thanksgiving weekend, Frozen and Catching Fire accounted for $141.4 million of the weekend’s overall gross of $208m. That type of feast or famine atmosphere didn’t repeat itself, but it meant that lacking a Frozen-level animated hit overall business was down significantly this year, $162m for 2014 vs. $208m last year. As far as benchmarks, Mockingjay crossed $200m domestic and is nearing $500m worldwide, and Interstellar is up to nearly $525m worldwide, over $100m of that from China.
Let’s do the numbers:
Top 10 Estimated Domestic Totals (11/26-11/30)
- Weekend Gross=$56.8 million (-53.3% from last weekend)
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$82.5 million
- Total Gross to Date=$225.6 million
- Budget=$125 million
Foreign: $67m from 86 markets this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $254.4m/$480m. For the moment, its leading foreign market is the UK, where it has amassed $32.8m. Catching Fire ended up with $55m there last year.
Mockingjay had a lower-than-expected debut, and now it has a stronger-than-expected second weekend, the fifth biggest Thanksgiving weekend (Fri-Sun) in history, behind Toy Story 2 ($57.3m), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ($57.4m), Frozen ($67m), and Catching Fire ($74m). If you take the whole Thanksgiving holiday into account, this is actually the third highest Wed-Sun total in Thanksgiving history, behind the records set last year by Catching Fire ($109m) and Frozen ($93m). Its opening-weekend-to-second-weekend percentage drop is actually identical to Catching Fire‘s, but, of course, their actual box office totals are quite different since after its first 10 days Catching Fire had $296m domestic vs. Mockingjay‘s $225m. That being said, Mockingjay is not quite as far behind the pace of the first Hunger Games, which had a 10-day total of $448m. It still has no real shot of matching either of those film’s final domestic totals, $423m for Catching Fire, $408m for Hunger Games. However, its’ most comparable titles are probably the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Breaking Dawn: Part 1, which were also penultimate franchise entries released the week before Thanksgiving. Both of those films dropped at least 60% in their second weekends, and finished with domestic totals just south of $300m. With this strong second weekend hold, Mockingjay is now tracking ahead of both of them, and thus has a fair chance of reaching $300m domestic, likely duking it out with The Hobbit for second biggest film of the year behind Guardians of the Galaxy.
Overseas, it is not experiencing quite as noticeable of a drop-off from prior franchise entries. It will definitely surpass the first Hunger Games‘ foreign haul of $283m, and while Catching Fire‘s foreign total of $440m is probably unbeatable Mockingjay could at least chase $400m. It does have China sometime early next year, but that may not present as big of a boost as you might expect. China was only the third leading foreign market for the first Hunger Games, and fifth for Catching Fire.
2. The Penguins of Madasgar (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$25.8 million
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$36 million
- Budget=$132 million
Foreign: $36m from 44 markets this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $63m/$98.6m. Penguins is only playing in 40% of the international marketplace meaning it has plenty of foreign openings in its future, beginning with Belgium, Holland, the UK next weekend.
DreamWorks Animation just can’t catch a break. In the past year, The Hollywood Reporter has twice reported that DreamWorks was close to selling, and each time the deal fell through shortly thereafter. The most recent failed sale was to be to Hasbro, who were apparently scared away because Disney threatened to pull lucrative toy sales away from the company if it got in bed with the competition, not that DreamWorks is much competition these days. Plus, DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg apparently refuses to back down from his exorbitant asking price, no matter how far south Mr. Peabody & Sherman, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and now Penguins of Madagascar fall of expectations.
DreamWorks just had a film out over Thanksgiving 2 years ago when Rise of the Guardians made $23m over the weekend, $32m over the Wed-Sun Thanksgiving holiday. Clearly, Penguins bested those totals, but not by much. Thankfully, it also cost a tad bit less to make than Guardians, which carried a $145m budget, but Guardians was a new film property whereas Penguins has been spun-off from a franchise with 3 prior film entries and 1 TV show. It is the more proven commodity, and should have been an easy cash-in for the studio (to be clear, DreamWorks makes the movies, Fox distributes them). That’s the reason Penguins was pushed into this Thanksgiving opening, swapping spots with the film the company originally scheduled for the holiday, Home, an adaptation of the children’s book “The True Meaning of Smekday.” It performed roughly on par with their last major spin-off, Puss in Boots, which debuted in October 2011 with a weekend total of $34m and 5-day total of $38m. Puss in Boots ultimately ended up with $149m domestic whereas Rise of the Guardians barely crossed the $100m mark. I expect Penguins to fall somewhere in-between.
- Weekend Gross=$18.7 million (-6.7% from last weekend)
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$25.8 million
- Total Gross to Date=$167.2 million
- Budget=$165 million
Foreign: $4.8m from 25 markets this weekend. It’s still only playing in around 20% of the international marketplace, but it is playing especially big in Asian countries, becoming the biggest Disney/Pixar film of all time (even bigger than Frozen!) in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. As such, it is expected to post huge numbers when it invades Japan this week (12/2), Korea in January, and China sometime after that. For now, its international/worldwide split is up to $56.9m/$224.1m.
Prior to Thanksgiving, Big Hero 6 was on pace to pass both Wreck It Ralph and Tangled to become Disney Animation Studios’ second highest-grossing film of all time behind Frozen (of course). The question was whether or not it would be thrown off severely by Penguins of Madagascar. That didn’t happen. Instead, it proved surprisingly resilient. You could argue Big Hero 6 was hurt less by Penguins than Penguins was hurt by having Big Hero 6 around as holdover competition. As a result, Big Hero 6 is coasting to an eventual domestic total well north of Wreck It Ralph ($189m) and probably Tangled ($200m).
- Weekend Gross=$15.8 million (+3% from last weekend)
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$22 million
- Total Gross to Date=$147 million
- Budget=$165 million
Foreign: $44.4m this weekend, $18.1m of that in China, for a new international/worldwide split of $392.5m/$524.2m. It has been #1 in China for three straight weeks, and #1 in Korea for a full month. Not surprisingly, those are currently Interstellar‘s two leading markets, with $106m in China and $61m in Korea. The next two leading markets, the UK ($28.6m) and Russia ($24m), aren’t even close.
Let’s do something here. Forget that this is a Christopher Nolan film meaning forget about the gazillions of dollars The Dark Knight trilogy made and the near $900m worldwide haul for Inception. Instead, think of Interstellar as just some audacious sci-film that dared to marry Kubrick’s cold, impenetrable 2001: A Space Odyssey with the heart-on-its-sleeve family drama of a Spielberg film, and managed to get a budget just under $170m despite being an original concept not adapted from any outside source. They then shot themselves in the foot by declining to tack-on 3D, and let the film’s length come way too close to the dreaded 3 hour mark.
The next part is where I would say, “Isn’t it impressive that such a movie could make over $500m worldwide?” The problem with that scenario is that while it means to minimize expectations and champion original film-making the fact is that no one could get this movie made in this exact way with that budget other than Christopher Nolan. That means that, yes, this performance will, fairly or not, be weighed against his other films. Right now, it still has a long way to go to get up to Inception’s level ($825m), and there are no significant foreign markets awaiting release. That being said, it is quite the phenomenon in China and Korea right now, and here at home it actually posted a weekend-to-weekend gain instead of subtraction, an almost unheard of feat for modern movies not named Frozen.
5. Horrible Bosses 2 (Opening Weekend)
- Weekend Gross=$15.7 million
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$23 million
- Budget=$43 million
Foreign: $11.7m from 42 markets this weekend for a worldwide debut of $34.7m
Horrible Bosses 2 is a sequel no one particularly asked for, and it performed like one, posting noticeably lower opening weekend ($15.7m vs. $28.3m for Horrible Bosses) and 5-day totals ($23m vs. $36.1m) than its predecessor. This comes despite the fact that they returned pretty much the entire cast, including another raunchy, albeit abbreviated appearance by Jennifer Aniston, and had the benefit of being a clear adult comedy alternative to fellow newbie Penguins of Madagascar. The poor reviews likely didn’t help (just 34% on RottenTomatoes), although opening night audiences gave it a B+ on CinemaScore, a decent grade for an R-rated comedy. The original Horrible Bosses ended up with $117.5m domestic and $209m worldwide, neither of which Horrible Bosses 2 is likely to match. However, it also only cost $43m to make, just $8m more than the first movie. So, even if Horrible Bosses 2 does just slightly over half of the business of the first one everything will be fine. Just don’t expect a Horrible Bosses 3.
- Weekend Gross=$8.2 million (-41% from last weekend)
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$11.5 million
- Total Gross to Date=$72 million
- Budget=Less than $40 million
Foreign: Universal is only handling part of Dumb and Dumber To‘s foreign distribution, taking care of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain with plans to soon expand to the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Red Granite Pictures is responsible for everything else, but they’re not providing their weekend totals as quickly as Universal. So, in the current Universal territories Dumb and Dumber To grossed a mere $1.1m this weekend for a new total of $7.6m. If you add that to the most recent figures we have from Red Granite then Dumb and Dumber To‘s international total goes up to $20.5m for a worldwide total of $92.7m.
After a big second weekend drop, Dumb and Dumber To somewhat steadied itself over the Thanksgiving period meaning that its $72m total domestic gross is at least double its opening weekend ($36m). Over the holiday, Dumb and Dumber To‘s PG-13 rating likely weighed in its favor up against the R-rated newcomer Horrible Bosses 2.
7. The Theory of Everything
- Weekend Gross=$5 million (+236.2% from last weekend)
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$6.3 million
- Total Gross to Date=$9.6 million
- Budget=They’re not saying
Foreign: No foreign box office yet
The pattern for the Thanksgiving box office the past couple of years is for a big holdover release(s) to dominate, a couple of new releases to do middling numbers, and an awards contender expanding wide to make some noise in the bottom half of the top 10. This year, the latter honor belongs to The Theory of Everything, which after cracking the top 10 despite playing in fewer than 150 theaters last weekend expanded wide and saw its biz jump over 200% this weekend. Last year’s awards contender over Thanksgiving was The Book Thief, and it never had a weekend like the one Theory of Everything just did.
- Weekend Gross=$2.4 million (-12.9% from last weekend)
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$3.1 million
- Total Gross to Date=$160.7 million
- Budget=$61 million
Foreign: $1.05m from 27 markets this weekend, upping its international total to $173.4m and worldwide to $334.1m. Its still has openings in Japan (12/12) and Italy (12/18). It has now passed Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($333.9m) to become director David Fincher’s biggest film, worldwide.
At this point, the discussion with Gone Girl officially switches away from its current box office and over to the Academy Awards. Will the fact that David Fincher not only managed to turn this unfilmmable book into a freakishly engaging and thought-provoking film but also a worldwide box office hit weigh in his favor or act as a deterrent to certain voters who seem to have a kneejerk reaction against anything that achieves too much financial success?
- Weekend Gross=$1.8 million (+1.4% from last weekend)
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$2.3 million
- Total Gross to Date=$17.2 million
- Budget=$18 million
Foreign: Less than $800,000 from limited international play
It’s hard to know what to expect from an art-house, black comedy featuring the former Batman (Michael Keaton) basically playing something close to himself in a story which sends up our current obsession with the superhero film. It’s even harder when the director, Alejandro Inarritu, is not at all known for comedy, and has never made a movie which made more than $35m domestic. Well, Birdman has become that director’s second biggest film, passing 21 Grams ($16.2m), and among 2014’s late charge of buzzy awards contenders it has been a hot ticket lately.
- Weekend Gross=$1.7 million (-21% from last weekend)
- Wed-Sun Thanksgiving Gross=$2.2 million
- Total Gross to Date=$39.3 million
- Budget=They’re Not Telling
Foreign: Its minimal foreign box office has yet to eclipse $600,000.
Take About a Boy, mix in a little bit of Bad Words, change the surrogate father-son dynamic of those stories to surrogate grandfather-grandson, and you’ve got St. Vincent, a crowd-pleaser that is finally winding down. It may end up equaling the unadjusted box office haul of the film to which it owes a considerable creative debt, About a Boy ($41m).
What Dropped Out of the Top 10?:
Beyond the Lights (#6 to #11) and Fury (#8 to #12). Fury has officially surpassed 2014’s other big WWII movie, The Monuments Men, both at home ($81m vs. $78m) and overseas ($89m vs. $77m) and, consequently, worldwide ($171m vs. $158m). Fury actually leaked online recently, which is concerning for all involved since it still has releases planned in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Spain, and Brazil.
What’s Up Next?:
The Imitation Game, which debuted in just 4 theaters over the Thanksgiving weekend, will add more theaters, Foxcatcher probably will too, Reese Witherspoon’s Oscar contender The Wild will debut in just 5 theaters on Wednesday, and a horror film called Pyramid will debut in just under 600 theaters on Friday. That’s it. That’s in a month that will give us Ridley Scott’s Exodus and Chris Rock’s Top Five in the following weekend, The Hobbit the next weekend, Annie and Night at the Museum 3 a week later, and The Interview, Into the Woods, Unbroken, American Sniper, Big Eyes, and Selma over Christmas. Prediction: One of those film is going to wish it had picked this upcoming weekend for its release instead of later in the month, such as Annie, which is doing itself no favors opening against family-friendly Night at the Museum and one week before fellow musical Into the Woods. They are clearly banking on their African-American makeover of the Annie story making their film appealing to an entirely different audience than Museum and/or Woods.