By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 7, 2013 at 1:38PM
The first weekend after the long Thanksgiving holiday traditionally ranks as one of the worst of the year. But even with a hiatus between big new films (brief, with "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" lurking next week) and "Out of the Furnace" -- the one new wide release failing to catch fire -- the day actually was up around 15% from last year due to two strong holdovers. Meantime, the Coen Brothers' latest "Inside Llewyn Davis" (CBS Films) had the biggest opening of any platform film since "Blue Jasmine" in July.
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (Lionsgate) and "Frozen" (Buena Vista) are in a close race for #1 this weekend, with "Fire" ahead for the day with $7.7 million, while Disney's latest animated entry is at $6.8 million. Weekend matinees -- particularly strong this time of year as some parents combine shopping with dropping kids off at theaters -- should boost "Frozen" to parity or even the top spot for the three days. Both films were way behind their holiday takes last Friday, but that is normal for this time of year. "Catching Fire" is already at a very strong $317 million, while "Frozen" has crossed the $100 million mark.
The two films helped boost the day's take for the Top 10 to $22.3 million, up from $19.4 last year. But the grosses last year were spread out among several films continuing strong holiday runs (the top 5 all became $100 million-plus performers). The rest of the pack this year is much weaker. At #3 was Relativity's Christian Bale starrer "Out of the Furnace," the weekend's only new wide release, which took in only $1,880,000 in 2,100 theaters. Scott Cooper's gritty drama looks headed for a quick two-week run and a likely ultimate total take not much above $10 million.
It falls quickly from there. #4 "Thor: The Dark World" (Buena Vista) is already a proven success, and still ranks high in its fifth weekend with $1.3 million (a gross that would have placed #8 last year). It is closing in on $200 million domestic, which it looks to ultimately cross, with international more than double that so far.
"Delivery Man" (Buena Vista) is at #5 with $1.16 million and "Homefront" (Open Road) at #6 with $1 million are both playing out before disappearing. The much more successful "The Best Man Holiday" (Universal) made #7 with $789,000 and looks to top out somewhere around $70 million.
Two older-audience, more limited releases took the next two spots, with "The Book Thief" (20th Century Fox) #8 at $755,000 in 1,316 theaters and Weinstein's "Philomena" grossing $625,000 in 835. Both of course fell considerably from last Friday, but the latter held much better even if its per screen average ($749) is not likely enough to sustain most of these runs much longer.
The day was weak enough that "Gravity" (Warner Bros.) managed to return to the Top 10 with only $330,000 (now over $250 million), with another Oscar contender, "12 Years a Slave" (Fox Searchlight) right behind it.
"Inside Llewyn Davis" opened at four prime New York/Los Angeles theaters to a strong $123,000 with a PSA of $30,750, compared to $12,165 for the first day of their last limited opener, "A Serious Man," which went on to a less than $10 million ultimate gross. One day doesn't guarantee crossover success --"The Master" had an opening day PSA of $48,000 before encountering near-total disinterest last year. But with the Coens' deep fan base and likely awards support (possibly ahead of "The Master"'s less-than-expected haul) this is a promising start.