Box Office: ‘Hunger Games’ to Dominate ‘Krampus’

Exhibitors should stock up on the Excedrin because the movie business is about to suffer from a severe, post-Thanksgiving hangover.

Ticket sales are expected to plunge this weekend. “Krampus,” a darkly comic horror film about a horned Christmas ghoul, is the only major studio release set to open as the box office braces for a slowdown. Whaling drama “The Heart of the Sea” opens the following week and crime drama “Legend” expands, but they’re the rare exception. Studios typically steer clear of this time of year, and for good reason. A year ago, overall ticket receipts plummeted below $80 million; one of the lowest grossing weekends of the year.

Ticket sales are not expected to rebound until “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” achieves global domination on Dec. 18.

“It’s not the best time to open a new movie and that’s being amplified by the fact that ‘Star Wars’ is just around the corner and people are really waiting for that,” said Shawn Robbins, senior analyst at BoxOffice.com.

That means that it will be all about the holdovers. Most analysts expect that “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” will retain its crown, earning roughly $23 million for its third consecutive first place finish.

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Katniss Everdeen will have some competition, however. Exit polling suggests that audiences like Disney and Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” which will serve the animated film well as it enters its second weekend in theaters. It is expected to drop roughly 50% from its $55.5 million opening, picking up $21 million, but a few prognosticators believe it could pull ahead of “The Hunger Games” to score a first place victory.

“Creed,” the critically heralded “Rocky” spin-off, won’t be far behind, adding approximately $18 million to its haul. That should be enough to secure third place and about half of the $42.1 million it earned over Thanksgiving.

Krampus,” which takes its name from an Alpine folk figure who punishes children who misbehave, should make between $11 million and $13 million when it unspools across 2,899 theaters. It also debuts in 24 foreign territories. Universal is distributing the film through its partnership with Legendary Entertainment. Adam Scott and Toni Collette co-star in the $15 million production, which should appeal to moviegoers who wished Santa Claus could be more sadistic.

In a play for faith-based crowds, FreeStyle Releasing will debut “The Letters,” a look at the life of Mother Teresa, in 1,000 locations. The film may have trouble getting a big turnout from religious groups. It is on track to do less than $2 million.

In limited release, Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions are rolling out Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” in 304 theaters. The drama about gang violence is based on Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” a staple of Greek drama that centers on a group of women who refuse sex until their husbands abandon the battlefield. The setting this time is modern-day Chicago, where the fallout from the Laquan McDonald shooting is gripping the city and making the gritty subject matter particularly timely.

Fox Searchlight, currently navigating “Brooklyn” through the maze of Oscar contenders, opens another awards hopeful in “Youth.” Paolo Sorrentino’s comedy about an aging composer vacationing in a spa is earning strong reviews for stars Michael Caine and Jane Fonda. Now it will have to avoid the fate of other adult-oriented films like “Steve Jobs” and “Truth,” and connect with audiences in addition to critics.

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