‘Hunger Games’ Leads Slow Thanksgiving Box Office With $40 Million 5-Day Total

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Overall holiday totals improve from last year, but remain below $175 million as “Wish” and “Napoleon” get off to slow starts

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Rachel Zegler in "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" (Lionsgate)

The Thanksgiving box office will see improvements from last year’s poor returns, but are still far from pre-pandemic levels as Disney’s “Wish” and Sony/Apple’s “Napoleon” are estimated to open to less than $35 million over five days, allowing Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” to retain the No. 1 spot with an estimated $40 million.

Currently, industry estimates have overall Thanksgiving totals finishing at $173 million, up 29% from the $134 million posted in Thanksgiving 2022. That remains down 34% from the $262 million posted on Thanksgiving weekend 2019. Overall totals for the holiday period topped $200 million every year from 2002 to 2019.

Credit where it is due to the “Hunger Games” prequel, which is holding better at the box office than it first seemed that it would with its positive but not stellar word-of-mouth coming out of opening weekend. The $100 million budgeted film is on pace for a solid theatrical run with an estimated $96 million grossed domestically over two weekends.

Things are not looking as good for “Wish,” which was projected heading into the weekend to take No. 1 but is now fighting “Napoleon” for the No. 2 spot, with an estimated $33 million 5-day start.

Black Friday is a critical period for family films getting a Thanksgiving release, with successful films seeing a big boost from their Wednesday and Thursday returns. While “Wish” grossed $8.2 million on Wednesday, it saw no rise from that total on Friday with just $8 million grossed.

“Wish” will still do better than the miserable $18.8 million that “Strange World” suffered last year. But the tepid reviews from critics — 50% on Rotten Tomatoes — and competition from Universal/DreamWorks’ “Trolls” — an estimated $25 million 5-day total for that film this weekend — are playing roles in Disney suffering another weak opening, following “The Marvels” suffering a franchise-low launch for Marvel Studios earlier this month.

The only hope for “Wish” is that it could leg out with families through December, as parents and kids who have seen the film tend to enjoy it and have given it an A- on CinemaScore. “Elemental” was able to perform such a recovery this summer, grossing nearly $500 million after suffering the worst opening in Pixar history. But “Wish” will have to contend against upcoming family films like Illumination’s “Migration” and Warner Bros.’ “Wonka.”

“Napoleon,” like “Wish,” is currently estimated for a $33 million 5-day opening. Unlike “Wish,” that result is above pre-release projections, which had Ridley Scott’s historical epic earning $25 million over the extended weekend.

Like Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Apple is footing the $200 million-plus budget with Sony serving as a theatrical distribution partner. The hope for Apple is that these films with iconic directors will boost subscriber numbers to Apple TV+ when they hit the streaming service early next year.

But beyond Scott’s fans who might be curious to see the director’s cut, set for a streaming-only release, “Napoleon” might not draw much interest down the line. Reception has been only slightly positive with a B- on CinemaScore and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 62% critics and 61% audience.

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