Wake Hollywood up when “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” arrives.
With two weeks to go before Luke, Leia, Han and a phalanx of stormtroopers and droids descend on multiplexes, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” topped box office charts in an otherwise quiet weekend. The science-fiction sequel earned $18.6 million, pushing its stateside haul to $227.1 million.
The weekend after Thanksgiving is historically one of the slowest of the year and the 2015 edition didn’t break with tradition. Studios largely steered clear. There was only one new major release in “Krampus,” a darkly comic horror film from Legendary and Universal that picked up a solid $16 million. The story of a horned demon who injects a sinister edge into a suburban family’s Christmas celebrations stars Adam Scott and Toni Collette. It was directed by Michael Dougherty (“Trick ‘r Treat”) and had been projected to pull in between $10 million and $13 million.
Universal domestic distribution chief Nick Carpou said the studio wasn’t intimidated by the fact that ticket sales tend to fall into a trough during this time of year.
“Sometimes it’s a self fulfilling prophecy as far as this weekend is concerned,” he said. “If you put something out there that’s fresh and different and obviously, in our case, holiday themed, it incentivizes people to come out.”
Without much in the way of new blood, a trio of holdovers rounded out the top five. “Creed” rode Oscar buzz and strong word-of-mouth to a third place finish, racking up $15.5 million to drive the “Rocky” spinoff’s domestic total to $65.1 million. “The Good Dinosaur” tied for third with $15.5 million, dropping off more than expected and falling roughly 60%. Usually Pixar and Disney films have better holds, but this is a sign that audiences aren’t responding to the picture with the enthusiasm they showed for other efforts such as “Toy Story” and “Inside Out.” The animated film has earned $75.9 million so far.
“Spectre” took fifth position with $5.4 million. The latest James Bond adventure has generated $184.5 million since opening at the beginning of November.
In a failed bid for the faith-based crowd, Freestyle Releasing offered up “The Letters,” a look at the life of Mother Teresa, in 886 theaters, where it grossed an uninspiring $802,000.
In limited release, the Weinstein Company opened “MacBeth” in five theaters, where the film adaptation of the “Scottish Play” earned a lackluster $67,868, for a per-screen average of $13,573.
Fox Searchlight’s “Youth” fared slightly better, nabbing $80,000 from four theaters for a per-location average of $20,000. The picture centers on an aging composer (Michael Caine) at a spa and is directed by “The Great Beauty” Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino. The indie label says it will slowly expand the picture and may eventually have it in more than 100 theaters.
“We’ve reached our core cinephile audience that we were expecting to and now the job is to broaden it out,” said Frank Rodriguez, senior vice president of distribution at Searchlight.
Amazon launched its first theatrical release with Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” a look at gun violence that debuted as Chicago grapples with mounting outrage over the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald. It earned $1.2 million over 305 screens and is being distributed by Roadside Attractions. Chicago audiences were particularly receptive to the film’s message, handing the picture a $15,000-plus per-screen average on 22 screens.
“The numbers out of Chicago are phenomenal,” said Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ marketing and distribution head, in a statement. “All of this is a testament to the support of the local Chicago community and, across the board, the urgency of the situation. ‘Chi-Raq’ has been recognized as a call to action to stop the violence plaguing cities across the country, not only Chicago.”
It has been a bruising period for adult dramas, but two awards contenders, “Spotlight” and “Brooklyn,” do appear to be catching on with older crowds. “Spotlight,” a drama about the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal, has earned $16.6 million since opening five weeks ago, while “Brooklyn,” a lyrical story of an Irish immigrant, has grossed $11.2 million in a little over a month.
Though domestic receipts fell sharply from last week’s holiday, they represented an improvement over the prior year. Final numbers are still being tallied, but it looks at though the box office will be up by more than 20%.
“It feels kind of like the day after the party, but it’s really not that bad as post-Thanksgivings go,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak. “This is the calm before the ‘Star Wars’ storm.”