Weekend Wrap-Up

Fire & Ice: Holiday Combo Scorches $200 million 5-Day

By John Hamann

December 1, 2013

Uh oh. Did Katniss and Peeta go to Hunger Games Heaven?

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It’s a good time to be alive if you track the box office, as all the Thanksgiving records have been broken this weekend - twice.

Both The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Disney’s Frozen lit it up at the Thanksgiving box office, almost breaking the record book in the process. The Lionsgate super-sequel and the Disney Animation project combined for an absolutely stunning $149 million over the three-day portion of the Thanksgiving frame, and $203.2 million for the five days that include Wednesday through Sunday. Both Catching Fire and Frozen beat the records for biggest Thanksgiving Day take, biggest three-day Thanksgiving take, and biggest five-day Thanksgiving take, with Frozen becoming the biggest opening film ever over a Thanksgiving weekend, breaking Toy Story 2’s 14-year-old record. For many Thanksgivings to come, this weekend will be revered in the annals of box office history.

Our number one film of the five-day holiday is Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. After opening as the sixth-biggest film ever at $158 million, at this point in its run, Catching Fire has become the second biggest box office “achiever” since Marvel’s Avengers. On the Monday following its terrific opening weekend, Catching Fire earned $12.3 million – that was akin to a much-needed break between the opening and Thanksgiving, as it came in as only the 42nd biggest Monday ever. On Tuesday, the super-sequel upped that Monday gross by 30%, pulling in $16 million (ninth biggest Tuesday gross ever); on Wednesday, it was up another 30% to $20.7 million (16th biggest Wednesday gross ever). On that Wednesday, Catching Fire crossed the $200 million mark after only six days in release.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Catching Fire earned $14.9 million, the biggest Thanksgiving Day take ever. Then on Friday, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire earned an astonishing $31.25 million. Last Friday, Catching Fire earned $70.95 million, but only $45.7 million of that was actually earned on Friday. That means that the Friday-to-Friday drop was only 32%, a tiny drop for a blockbuster (Avengers was 50%+, Iron Man 3, 60%+). It beat The Avengers eighth day by $2 million and Iron Man 3’s by a staggering $11.5 million. After eight days, Catching Fire’s only box office comparison at this point is Marvel’s Avengers, and that was a summer film. This is November and Katniss Everdeen is making Harry Potter and the pale vampire club look tame at the box office.


It is Thanksgiving weekend, so the box office pattern changes. Normally, blockbusters like Catching Fire have big Fridays, followed by even bigger Saturdays. Thanksgiving is different, as the actual holiday on Thursday is often the slowest of the five-day holiday weekend, and the peak coming on Black Friday, instead of the traditional Saturday. Catching Fire followed that pattern, as after earning $31.25 on Friday (up 110% from Thursday), it dipped to $28.5 million on Saturday (off 9%), and then pulled in an estimated $14.8 million on Sunday. That means that Catching Fire earned $74.5 million over the three-day Thanksgiving frame, off 53% from opening weekend, and an amazing $110.2 million over the five-day period, off 30% from opening weekend. If estimates hold, it is the fourth biggest second weekend in history behind only The Avengers' $103 million, Avatar's $75.6 million and The Dark Knight's $75.2 million. A more perfectly titled film, at least in reference to its box office, has never been.

These numbers put every other Thanksgiving opener ever to shame. Prior to Catching Fire, the former top Thanksgiving film – regardless of it opening or not – was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which earned $57.5 million over three-days in 2001. That record held for 12 years (an eternity in today’s box office world), and then was beaten this weekend by a staggering $20 million. For the five days, Sorcerer’s Stone was also the flag bearer at $82.4 million, but again got embarrassed by Catching Fire’s five-day haul of $110.2 million, a 34% spike from the previous record. Last weekend I mentioned that Lionsgate had picked the perfect weekend to release their film. I’m now thinking it may be the best release date of all time, maybe second behind 20th Century Fox’s decision to release Avatar on December 18th (where it remained the number one film for seven straight weekends).

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