Box Office: ‘Hunger Games’ Rules Thanksgiving, ‘Horrible Bosses 2,’ ‘Penguins’ Fall Short

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” was the clear choice among Thanksgiving moviegoers, but Katniss Everdeen didn’t leave much left over for “Horrible Bosses 2” or “Penguins of Madagascar” to feast on.

The futuristic adventure pulled in a massive $82.7 million over the five-day holiday and $56.9 million in its sophomore weekend.

Unfortunately, Turkey Day’s two new entries disappointed in their debuts. The spinoff of DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar” franchise made $25.8 million in its first weekend from 3,762 locations and $36 million over the five-day holiday. It had been expected to generate in the mid-to-high $40 million range in ticket sales.

Chris Aronson, distribution chief at 20th Century Fox, which is overseeing the rollout, said retailers’ decision to begin Black Friday at 6 p.m. on Thursday may have lured away family crowds and contributed to a weaker Thanksgiving day result.

“We are the victim of a soft marketplace,” said Aronson. “There were a lot of people fighting over a pie and that pie was not as big as it was last Thanksgiving.”

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DreamWorks Animation is coming off two failed sales to Softbank and Hasbro, so the softer opening will be acutely felt. The film cost $132 million to produce, so it will look to overseas audiences as it tries to become profitable.

“Horrible Bosses 2” pulled in $15.7 million this weekend, which was only good enough for a fifth place finish. The New Line and Warner Bros. release generated $23 million for the five-day period from 3,375 locations, a shadow of the $35 million it was expected to make. The good news is that with a $42 million production budget, the “Bosses” sequel was relatively inexpensive to cook up.

Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman said the film seemed to play particularly well to audiences under the age of 25 and expressed optimism that it will show some endurance next weekend when there are no major studio releases.

“I wish the number was a little bit higher,” said Fellman. “I think we’ll get a good multiple though and end up where we wanted to be — we’ll just get there a little differently.”

Overall, the box office was down 20% from 2013. The decline means year-to-date ticket sales are now tracking more than 4% behind 2013’s — they were down 3.6% going into the holiday.

“It’s been a roller coaster box office year, so it was no surprise that Thanksgiving was another roller coaster week,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “Just like it did in the summer, 2013 is providing a formidable set of comparisons.”

Even “Mockingjay – Part 1,” which became the third highest-grossing Thanksgiving release, couldn’t keep pace with the ghosts of “Hunger Games” past. Last year, its predecessor, “Catching Fire,” set a new record, picking up $110 million during the five-day holiday. That year also saw “Frozen” become the year’s second highest-grossing Thanksgiving week release of all time with a $93 million bounty.

Internationally, “Mockingjay – Part 1” grossed an estimated $67 million from 86 foreign markets, bringing its estimated foreign total to $254.4 million. The film’s North American total through the weekend is $225.7 million.

Two holdovers benefited from the increased traffic at the multiplexes. “Big Hero 6” continued to draw family crowds and likely cut into “Penguins of Madagascar’s” box office numbers. The animated film picked up roughly $26 million over the five days and $18.7 million for the weekend, which put its domestic haul at $167.2 million.

“Interstellar” also showed impressive stamina. Christopher Nolan’s space adventure has enjoyed a lift from Imax screens, which it holds onto until “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” lands in theaters on Dec. 17. The film earned $15.8 million for the weekend and $22 million for the five-day period. Its stateside total stands at $147.1 million.

“Insterstellar” also got a bump from the unveiling of the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” teaser, which was shown in 20 Imax auditoriums. Domestically, Imax contributed $7.8 million from 370 screens for the five-day marathon.

“Dumb and Dumber To” nabbed $8.3 million in its third week in theaters, driving its domestic total to $72.2 million. On the opposite end of the intelligence spectrum, “The Theory of Everything” performed well in its expansion, earning $5.1 million. The biopic about astrophysicist Stephen Hawking moved from 104 to 802 domestic locations this week and looks to be a strong awards season contender. It has earned $9.6 million since premiering four weeks ago.

It’s not all math and theoretical astronomy. The Focus Features release examines Hawkings’ relationship with his first wife and the love story has helped the film move beyond art houses to appeal to audiences across the country.

“We’re playing very broadly,” said Jim Orr, Focus Features president of distribution. “We’re not just doing well in the New Yorks and Los Angeleses and San Franciscos, we’re playing well in the middle of the country.”

Atlanta and Dallas were among the film’s biggest markets, Orr noted.

One of “Theory’s” main competitors for Oscar glory, “The Imitation Game,” got off to a strong start in limited release. The story of code breaker Alan Turing scored the year’s second highest per screen average, commanding $120,518, behind only “The Grand Budapest Hotel’s” $200,000 average. The Weinstein Company release made $482,071 in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

“It exceeded our expectations,” said Erik Lomis, distribution chief for the Weinstein Company. “This is a fantastic result for the film to open like this in this crowded, competitive marketplace.”

Even with the rough comparisons to last year’s record setting numbers, Thanksgiving is on track to be one of the movie industry’s biggest, if not the biggest, weeks of 2014.

“The common story for 2014 has been how does it compare to 2013 and this is another case where it doesn’t live up,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.

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