‘Hunger Games’ Prequel Leads Pre-Holiday Box Office With $44 Million

It’s a weekend full of mixed results for the box office, as Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is leading the charts with a $44 million opening weekend from 3,776 theaters.

The prequel to the hit YA novel trilogy was neither expected nor needed to top $100 million like the four film adaptations of “The Hunger Games” starring Jennifer Lawrence did in the early 2010s; but the film did miss pre-release projections of a $50 million start.

With a reported budget of $100 million, “Songbirds and Snakes” could still turn a modest profit from theatrical revenue alone before it hits home platforms. That will come down to whether the word-of-mouth is more reflective of the strong 91% audience score it has earned on Rotten Tomatoes — along with 61% critics — or the less sterling B+ it earned on CinemaScore, the lowest grade a “Hunger Games” film has earned.

So far this year, tentpoles that don’t earn an A- or higher on CinemaScore have struggled to leg out during their theatrical run. While “Hunger Games” fans have returned to theaters this weekend, it remains to be seen if more casual moviegoers will be interested in buying a ticket during the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.

Those casual moviegoers have shown that they aren’t interested in seeing “The Marvels,” as the second weekend of the latest Marvel Studios production has turned disastrous with just $10.2 million grossed in its second weekend. That is a drop of nearly 80% from the film’s franchise worst $46 million opening, and leaves it struggling to hold on to the No. 3 spot this weekend against Eli Roth’s slasher film “Thanksgiving.”

With this poor drop, “The Marvels” will likely fail to even match the $108.1 million domestic/$270.6 million global box office total of Warner Bros./DC’s “The Flash,” a film regarded to be one of if not the biggest box office bust of the summer.

While other recent MCU films like “Eternals” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” have struggled, this is by far the biggest blow to Marvel Studios’ once-unblemished box office record, and delays caused by this year’s Hollywood strikes will leave the franchise unable to try to rebound until late July next year with the release of “Deadpool 3,” a sequel Marvel Studios inherited with Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox.

In the No. 2 spot on the charts is Universal/DreamWorks’ “Trolls Band Together” with a $30.6 million opening from 3,870 theaters. While that’s below the $46.5 million opening of the first “Trolls,” it is the highest opening weekend for a DreamWorks Animation title since the pandemic began.

With $108 million grossed globally so far, “Trolls 3” should post a modest theatrical profit against its reported $95 million budget. The question remains whether the sequel, which has been received well by families with an A on CinemaScore, will hold well against Disney’s “Wish” during Thanksgiving weekend and beyond.

As noted above, Sony Pictures has TriStar/Spyglass’ “Thanksgiving” neck-and-neck with “The Marvels” for the No. 3 spot with a $10.2 million opening. That’s below pre-release tracking for a mid-teens opening, but Sony is hoping to draw out college students and horror fans this Thanksgiving weekend who might be interested in a seasonal slasher.

“Thanksgiving” has been rather well received for a film in its genre, with critics giving it an 83% Rotten Tomatoes score, a personal best for Eli Roth. Audiences metrics skew positive with 3.5/5 on PostTrak, a B- on CinemaScore and a 79% RT audience score.

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