Hollywood’s Box Office Feast and Famine as ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel Tops Charts

This image released by Lionsgate shows Josh Andrés Rivera , left, and Tom Blyth in a scene from 'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.' (Lionsgate via AP)

The North American box office saw a tumultuous weekend leading up to Thanksgiving, headlined by “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” which garnered a triumphant $44 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend.

‘Hunger Games’ Revival Tests Waters

This latest installment marks a significant return for a franchise that lay dormant for eight years. Despite its strong showing, the prequel’s debut, spread across 3,776 locations, including 1,610 premium screens, is notably lower than its predecessors. Each of the four Jennifer Lawrence-led movies surpassed $100 million in their debut weekends, highlighting a shifting landscape in the franchise’s appeal.

Adam Fogelson, the vice chair of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, reflected on the challenges and opportunities of launching a prequel, especially without a returning cast. “The fact that we’re sitting here at basically $100 million on opening weekend around the world is, I think, a testament to the quality of the movie,” he stated, underscoring the global appeal of the new film.

This image released by Lionsgate shows Tom Blyth, left, and Rachel Zegler in a scene from “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” (Lionsgate via AP)

A Mixed Bag at the Box Office

Other releases saw varied fates. “Trolls Band Together,” the third entry in the animated series, debuted in second place with a robust $30.6 million. However, “The Marvels” faced a historic downturn, plummeting 78% in its second weekend, with a mere $10.2 million from 4,030 locations. This decline represents a new low for Marvel and modern superhero films.

Eli Roth’s R-rated horror “Thanksgiving” tied with “The Marvels” for third place, drawing in $10.2 million. The film, set in Plymouth, Massachusetts, post a Black Friday tragedy, stars Patrick Dempsey and Addison Rae.

Disney’s “Next Goal Wins,” an underdog soccer story featuring Michael Fassbender and directed by Taika Waititi, struggled in its opening weekend, earning $2.5 million for a seventh-place spot. Despite its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, the film received lukewarm critical reception.

This image released by Sony Pictures shows a scene from the horror film “Thanksgiving.” (Pief Weyman/Sony Pictures via AP)

Critical Reception and Upcoming Attractions

The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” carries a 61% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicative of mixed critical reception, though audiences have been more receptive. Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for Comscore, noted that moviegoing behavior can fluctuate during holidays, with some audiences preferring to watch films with family during Thanksgiving.

Looking ahead, the week promises a diverse array of releases, including Disney’s “Wish,” Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon,” and Emerald Fennell’s “Saltburn.” “It’s traditional for the Thanksgiving frame that people can catch up on movies big and small,” Dergarabedian remarked, highlighting the variety of choices available to audiences.

Box Office Figures

Estimated ticket sales from Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters are as follows, with final domestic figures expected to be released soon:

  1. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” $44 million.
  2. “Trolls Band Together,” $30.6 million.
  3. “The Marvels,” $10.2 million.
  4. “Thanksgiving,” $10.2 million.
  5. “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” $3.5 million.
  6. “The Holdovers,” $2.7 million.
  7. “Next Goal Wins,” $2.5 million.
  8. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” $2.4 million.
  9. “Priscilla,” $2.3 million.
  10. “Killers of the Flower Moon,” $1.9 million.