'Hunger Games' Prequel Launches to No. 1 at Box Office Despite Falling Short of Expectations

'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes' easily snatches the top spot in its first weekend despite the arrival of other new offerings such as 'Trolls Band Together' and 'Thanksgiving'.

AceShowbiz - "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" has emerged as a new champion at the North American box office. Lionsgate's dystopian action film easily wins the first place with an estimated $44 million despite the arrival of other new offerings.

In another dismal result of a big franchise, "The Hunger Games" prequel opens slightly beyond expectations. Heading into the frame, tracking suggested the movie would bring in around $50 million, with some industry estimates going as low as $45 million or as high as $60 million.

Traffic, however, slipped more than expected on Saturday, marking the lowest start of the franchise. The Jennifer Lawrence-led original four films all broke $100 million in their first weekends.

With an added $54.5 million from 87 international markets, the Rachel Zegler-starring movie has already earned $98.5 million against a more modest $100 million budget. Lionsgate still considers it a strong start for the prequel, which is billed as darker in tone than Lawrence's movies.

"Historically, attempting to do prequels, especially with no returning cast, can be a very challenging proposition," says Adam Fogelson, vice chair of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. "The fact that we're sitting here at basically $100 million on opening weekend around the world is, I think, a testament to the quality of the movie, the quality of the talent that worked on the movie and a campaign that was both successful and efficient." Fogelson adds that comparing the prequel to the original movies would be "a complete disservice to this movie as a standalone."

David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, agrees as saying, "This is a very good opening for an action-adventure prequel." He explains, "On average, prequels start with approximately half of the previous film's opening, and this weekend's figure is close to that."

It's a busy weekend at the theaters heading into Thanksgiving, with plenty of new offerings, such as "Trolls Band Together" and "Thanksgiving". The third "Trolls" movie debuts at No. 2 with an estimated $30.6 million.

Eli Roth's R-rated slasher "Thanksgiving" bows with an estimated $10.2 million, slightly behind expectations of $12-15 million from 3,200 theaters. It's tied with "The Marvels" which plummeted a record 78% in its second weekend. The final order will be determined on Monday morning.

"Five Nights at Freddy's" drops from No. 2 to No. 5 with approximately $3.5 million. Meanwhile, Taika Waititi's soccer comedy "Next Goal Wins" opens to an estimated $2.5 million and places seventh in its first weekend.

Top 10 of North American Box Office (Nov. 17-19, 2023):

  1. "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" - $44 million
  2. "Trolls Band Together" - $30.6 million
  3. "The Marvels" - $10.2 million
  4. "Thanksgiving" - $10.2 million
  5. "Five Nights at Freddy's" - $3.5 million
  6. "The Holdovers" - $2.7 million
  7. "Next Goal Wins" - $2.5 million
  8. "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" - $2.4 million
  9. "Priscilla" - $2.3 million
  10. "Killers of the Flower Moon" - $1.9 million

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