‘Hunger Games’ Tops ‘Wish,’ ‘Napoleon’ at Thanksgiving Box Office With $41.5 Million

Holiday weekend totals remain 34% below pre-COVID levels as Disney and Sony’s new releases fail to seize the No. 1 spot

'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'
"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" (Credit: Lionsgate)

While a batch of new releases helped the Thanksgiving box office improve from last year’s poor $134 million overall total, none of them were able to do well enough to take No. 1 from Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which earned $41.5 million over the 5-day period to bring its domestic total to $97.8 million over two weekends.

Overall totals for the 5-day holiday weekend rose 29% from $134 million in 2022 to $173 million this weekend, but remain 34% behind the $262 million seen in Thanksgiving 2019. Overall totals for Thanksgiving exceeded $200 million every year from 2002 to 2019, showing how far the film industry has to go in rebuilding the crucial period.

With mildly positive but not spectacular audience reception on its opening weekend, it was uncertain whether Lionsgate’s $100 million budgeted “Hunger Games” prequel was going to show any legs at the box office. But it has held very well as its $28 million Fri.-Sun. total represents just a 37% drop from its $44 million opening last weekend.

But Disney’s “Wish,” the film that was expected in pre-weekend projections, has little to celebrate by comparison with a 5-day opening weekend of just $31.7 million, well below pre-release predictions by trackers of a launch of up to $50 million.

That result is so low that “Wish” has fallen to the No. 3 spot on this weekend’s charts, with industry estimates putting Sony/Apple’s “Napoleon” at No. 2 with a $32.5 million 5-day opening after it had been projected for a $25 million start before release.

The poor start for Disney’s 100th anniversary film continues what has been a terrible month for the studio after Marvel Studios’ “The Marvels” suffered the worst opening weekend in the history of the superhero film studio and is now set to be the first MCU film to fail to cross $100 million in domestic grosses.

The only hopeful sign for “Wish” is that the audiences who have seen the film — mostly families — have largely enjoyed it with an A- on CinemaScore going with a 4.5/5 score by kids and 4/5 by parents on PostTrak. There’s still a chance that “Wish” could leg out through December similar to how Pixar’s “Elemental” did over the summer, but it will have to do so against upcoming new family releases like Warner Bros.’ “Wonka” and Universal/Illumination’s “Migration.”

“Napoleon,” R-rated historical epic from director Ridley Scott, is in the same boat as Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” in that Apple has reached into its deep Silicon Valley pockets to produce the film on its reported $170 million budget, with Sony serving as a distribution partner. It’s part of a strategy to use these films to boost interest in Apple TV+ when both films hit that streaming service early next year.

Because of that, the box office results for “Napoleon” aren’t as crucial to Apple as they would be had Sony or another legacy studio footed the budget, and Sony’s distribution deal on the film makes the $78.8 million global launch for the film a solid start.

But perhaps what is concerning for both Sony and Apple is that the film isn’t getting as strong critical or audience reception as “Killers of the Flower Moon,” earning a B- on CinemaScore and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 62% critics and 61% audience.

In fourth on the weekend charts is Universal/DreamWorks’ “Trolls Band Together,” which undoubtedly cut into the box office potential for “Wish” this weekend as it added $25.3 million over the 5-day weekend, bringing its domestic total to $64.4 million after two weekends.

Sony/TriStar/Spyglass’ “Thanksgiving” completes the top 5 with $11.1 million over five days, giving the seasonal slasher a two-weekend total of $24 million against a thrifty $15 million budget.

Outside of the top 5, another horror film has set a record as “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” with a global total nearly $300 million, is now the highest grossing film ever for Blumhouse Pictures, passing the $278 million global count for the 2017 M. Night Shyamalan film “Split.” It’s an impressive record considering that the video game adaptation was released day-and-date on Peacock, and shows how much of a devoted audience “Five Nights at Freddy’s” has built over the past decade.


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