Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire dominated the box office this weekend with an opening weekend performance of $158.07 million (which was down just over $3 million from Sunday's studio estimate). The highly anticipated blockbuster sequel starring Jennifer Lawrence ultimately opened towards the lower end of its massive expectations. Catching Fire was able to outpace the $152.54 million debut of last year's The Hunger Games by a slim 4 percent.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire set a new record for the largest ever unadjusted opening weekend for the month of November; the previous record being the $142.84 million debut of 2009's The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Catching Fire generated the third largest unadjusted opening weekend ever for a film without higher priced 3D grosses (behind only last year's The Dark Knight Rises and 2008's The Dark Knight). The film registered the sixth largest unadjusted opening weekend of all-time (behind only last year's Marvel's The Avengers, this year's Iron Man 3, 2011's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight).
As was the case with Thor: The Dark World two weeks ago, it was a bit of a roller coaster ride for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire throughout the weekend. The film debuted with a healthy $25.25 million from late night shows that began at 8 p.m. on Thursday, but didn't have the greatest hold throughout Friday as it grossed $70.95 million as a whole on its opening day. In turn, the film held up extremely well on Saturday to gross $52.62 million and declined a reasonable 34 percent on Sunday to take in $34.51 million. That gave The Hunger Games: Catching Fire an opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.23 to 1, which was in the same neighborhood as the 2.27 to 1 ratio generated by The Hunger Games. Perhaps relatively weaker non-midnight Friday grosses and stronger Saturday grosses will be a continuing trend for blockbuster level films to keep an eye on in the near future.
In addition to the strong Saturday hold, another good early sign for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the A rating it received on CinemaScore. And with this year's Thanksgiving weekend releases appearing relatively weaker than usual (with the obvious exception being Disney's Frozen), the limited competition could lead to an extra boost for Catching Fire over the five-day holiday frame that begins on Wednesday.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire grossed an estimated $12.6 million from 347 IMAX locations this weekend. That represented 8.0 percent of the film's overall opening weekend gross. The audience breakdown for Catching Fire skewed towards female moviegoers (59 percent) and was evenly split between moviegoers under 25 and over 25.
After leading the box office for the past two weekends, Disney's Thor: The Dark World slid to a distant second place with $14.196 million. The blockbuster Marvel superhero sequel fell a sharp 61 percent from last weekend, as it clearly took a significant hit from the debut of Catching Fire. Even with significant declines each of the past two weekends, Thor: The Dark World has still grossed a healthy $167.92 million in 17 days. That is 15.5 percent stronger than the $145.36 million 17-day take of 2011's Thor (which fell 55 percent in its third weekend to gross $15.46 million). Thor: The Dark World will likely experience temporary stabilization over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday frame.
Universal's The Best Man Holiday also experienced a sharp decline this weekend. After last weekend's better than expected start, the modestly budgeted comedy sequel was down 58.5 percent to gross $12.49 million this weekend. While The Best Man Holiday is generating good word of mouth, it lost momentum this weekend in part from so many fans of 1999's The Best Man having already rushed out last weekend. In the bigger picture, The Best Man Holiday has grossed a strong $50.36 million in its first ten days of release. That places the film 17 percent behind the $60.47 million ten-day take of last year's Think Like a Man (which fell 48 percent in its second weekend to gross $17.60 million). The Best Man Holiday should stabilize over the holiday frame, though it will also face added competition from Fox Searchlight's Black Nativity when it debuts on Wednesday.
Coming as no surprise, Delivery Man was off to a tough start this weekend with a fourth place take of $7.94 million. The Vince Vaughn comedy vehicle from Disney and DreamWorks debuted a bit below its already modest pre-release expectations. Opening against Catching Fire and Vaughn's dwindling drawing power at the box office in recent years proved to be a poor combination this weekend. Delivery Man debuted 38 percent below the $12.75 million start of last year's The Watch and represents the first time a wide release with Vaughn in a starring role has opened below the $10 million mark.
Delivery Man grossed $2.77 million on Friday, increased 21 percent on Saturday to take in $3.35 million and fell 45.5 percent on Sunday to gross $1.83 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.87 to 1. Delivery Man received a respectable B+ rating on CinemaScore. The audience breakdown for the film skewed heavily towards moviegoers 26 and older (78 percent) and was evenly split between genders.
Early results were far more promising for fellow Disney release Frozen. The latest 3D computer animated film from Walt Disney Animation grossed $243,390 from its exclusive Los Angeles engagement at the El Capitan theatre. Frozen opens in wide release on Wednesday.