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‘The Hunger Games’ tops Thanksgiving weekend box office

NEW YORK — The Walt Disney Co.’s “Wish” was expected to dominate the Thanksgiving weekend box office, but moviegoers instead feasted on leftovers as “The Hunger Games: A Song of Songbirds and Snakes” led the way in ticket sales for a second time Sunday weekend, according to today’s studio estimates.

None of the weekend’s most popular new releases — “Wish” and Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” — could keep up with Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games” prequel. Returning to Panem, which debuted with $44.6 million the previous weekend, became the movie that attracted the most attention among holiday moviegoers, grossing $28.8 million over the weekend and $42 million during the five-day holiday period.

Two weeks after its release, “Songbirds and Snakes” grossed nearly $100 million domestically and $200 million worldwide.

The closer contest was for second place, where “Napoleon” narrowly edged out “Wish.” Scott’s epic performance beat expectations with $32.5 million over the five-day weekend and an estimated $20.4 million from Friday through Sunday. The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the French emperor and Vanessa Kirby as his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais, became the highest-grossing film worldwide with $78.8 million.

Reviews were mixed (61% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and ticket buyers were less than pleased (“B-” CinemaScore), but “Napoleon” performed much better in theaters than its subject matter Waterloo did.

Like Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Napoleon” is Apple Studios’ big-budget exposé of the streamer’s growing Hollywood ambitions. With an estimated budget of $200 million, “Napoleon” may still have a long way to go to profitability for Apple, which has partnered with Sony to distribute “Napoleon” theatrically. But it’s an undeniably strong start to an adult-skewing 168-minute historical drama.

But “Wish” was supposed to have a more hopeful start. Disney Animation’s “Frozen II” ($123.7 million over five days in 2019), “Ralph Breaks the Internet” ($84.6 million in 2018) and “Coco” ($71 million in 2017) productions often hosted Thanksgiving movies.

But “Wish” was shaky, earning $31.7 million in five days and $19.5 million from Friday to Sunday. Internationally it added $17.3 million. It was estimated to approach $50 million.

At least “Wish” is holding up better than Disney’s Thanksgiving release last year: 2022’s “Strange World” bombed with an $18.9 million opening in five days. But hopes were higher for “Wish,” co-written and directed by the “Frozen” team of Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and sung by Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine. A fairy tale centered around a wished-on star, “Wish” is also a celebration of Disney; It coincides with the studio’s 100th anniversary and is filled with throwbacks to Disney favorites.

Critics were not impressed, saying “Wish” felt more like a marketing tool than movie magic. So instead of fixing a bumpy year for Disney, “Wish” for now adds to some of the studio’s recent headaches, including the underperforming “The Marvels.” Marvel’s sequel dropped to $76.9 million domestically and $110.2 million overseas in three weeks.

“Wish” also faced direct competition for families in “Trolls Band Together.” The DreamWorks and Universal Pictures release opened a week ago and grossed $17.5 million in its second frame ($25.3 million over five days).

“‘Wish’ faced a much more competitive market than Disney would normally see in the Thanksgiving corridor,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at data firm Comscore. “We’re used to seeing Disney movies at the top of the list. “They had to split the audience with ‘Trolls.'”

Still, the storybook on “The Wish” has yet to be written. It could follow in the footsteps of Pixar’s “Elemental,” which debuted in June with a measly $29.6 million but has finally taken off, grossing nearly $500 million worldwide.

Another film in wide release over the holiday weekend was Emerald Fennell’s “Saltburn,” the writer-director’s sequel to 2020’s “Promising Young Woman.” “Saltburn,” which opened in seven theaters last weekend, grossed $3.1 million in five days for Amazon and MGM. Barry Keoghan plays an Oxford student who is befriended by a wealthy classmate (Jacob Elordi) and invited to his family’s mansion.

As Hollywood’s awards season ramps up (Netflix released Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” in select theaters but did not report grosses), Focus Features’ “The Holdovers” remains one of the top picks in theaters. Alexander Payne’s film, which stars Paul Giamatti as a boarding school instructor, earned $3.8 million over the five-day weekend. It grossed $12.9 million in five weeks.

Ticket sales at U.S. and Canadian theaters overall reached $172 million over the five-day holiday weekend, according to Comscore. That’s up significantly from recent years but remains well behind typical pre-pandemic Thanksgiving weekends. (In 2019, sales increased by “Frozen 2” exceeded $262 million.)

Estimated ticket sales at U.S. and Canadian theaters from Friday through Sunday, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be announced on Monday.

1. “The Hunger Games: A Song of Songbirds and Snakes,” $28.8 million.

2. “Napoleon,” $20.4 million.

3. “I wish,” $19.5 million.

4. “Trolls Come Together,” $17.5 million.

5. “Thanksgiving,” $7.2 million.

6. “The Wonders,” $6.4 million.

7. “The Holdovers,” $2.8 million.

8. “Taylor Swift: Eras Tour,” $2.3 million.

9. “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” $1.8 million.

10. “Saltburn,” $1.7 million.

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