WINNERS OF THE WEEK: Fire and Ice. “Some say the world will end in fire/Some say in ice,” wrote Robert Frost. But at the multiplex, moviegoers found both were nice and would suffice. To no one’s surprise, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire remained on top for a second straight week, with an estimated $74.5 million from Friday to Sunday (and a total of $296.5 million in 10 days), but Disney’s cartoon Frozen gave it a run for its money. The snowy tale, which showed great promise on just one screen last week, more than lived up to its potential, scoring an estimated $66.7 million over the three-day weekend and $93.0 over the full five-day holiday. Both movies broke the Thanksgiving three-day and five-day records set 12 years ago by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ($57.5 million and $82.4 million, respectively). And both movies enjoyed stellar, near-identical per-screen averages ($17,896 for Catching Fire, $17,828 for Frozen). Which means that the only reason Catching Fire outperformed Frozen is that it was playing in 421 movie venues. Had Disney mounted a wider release, it could have caught Catching Fire.
LOSERS OF THE WEEK: All the other new movies. Not sure why everybody piled on this weekend when it was clear that the top two movies were going to gobble up most of the turkey and leave everyone else with hash. Crime drama Homefront did manage to open in fifth place with an estimated $7.0 million, but it still had to take a back seat to Thor: The Dark World (Number Three with an estimated $11.1 million) and The Best Man Holiday (in fourth with an estimated $8.5 million). Black Nativity, chasing much of the same audience flocking to word-of-mouth hit Best Man Holiday, settled for an eighth-place opening estimated at $3.9 million. (Over the full five-day holiday, Homefront earned $9.8 million, while Nativity picked up $5.0 million.)
At least they did better than Oldboy. Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean classic had been scheduled for a wide release, but distributor FilmDistrict put it out on just 583 screens. As a result, it opened at Number 17 with an estimated $850,000, or a feeble $1,458 per venue. Who’d have imagined that, over a holiday meant to encourage warm and grateful feelings, no one would want to see an ultra-grim tale of violence and revenge?
A WIDER ‘BOOK’-ING: Two of the most critically acclaimed current movies finally broke free of the art-house this weekend and into the multiplex – and the Top 10. In its fourth week, The Book Thief expanded to 1,234 theaters and was rewarded with an estimated 44.9 million, good for seventh place. Philomena, with a potentially Oscar-worthy performance by Judi Dench, expanded in its second week to 835 theaters and earned an estimated $3.8 million, coming in a hair behind Black Nativity to finish in ninth place.
Meanwhile, the biopic Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom (which also features a possible Oscar-contender performance, from Idris Elba), debuted with the highest per-screen average of any movie this week, $25,075, though that was on just four screens, for an estimated total of $100,300. That’s an impressive start, but when it comes to attracting more Oscar buzz or bigger returns once it opens wide, the movie still has, well, a long walk ahead of it.