Two huge films gobbled up almost 75% of the holiday weekend top 10 box office. The second week of "Catching Fire" and the wide opening of "Frozen" both amassed huge totals that blew all the other films away. However, the weekend total of $192 million fell $6 million short of last year, when six films grossed over $15 million for the three days (because of a calendar shift, in 2012 actually a week earlier) compared to only three this year.
Beyond the three top films, a variety of new releases, expansions and holdovers strictly modest business, contributing to the small drop. However, year-to-date now is once again close to parity to last year, with December -- competing with a very strong performance in 2012 -- holding the key to the annual total. It looks unlikely to beat last year at this point.
1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) - Week 2; Last weekend #1
$74,500,000 (-53%) in 4,163, theaters (unchanged); PSA (per screen average): $17,896; Cumulative: $296,500,000
Here's how strong the second weekend for this second "Hunger Games" film is: last year, "Breaking Dawn Part 2" at the same point had grossed $227 million, down 69% from its opening weekend, and through 10 days "Catching Fire" is $48 million ahead of what the first film did. The foreign take is nearly the same (unlike last time, when the international total was more than $100 million less than domestic), meaning that this has a shot to approach the $1 billion mark worldwide.
Both this and "Frozen" blew past existing 5-day Thanksgiving records (not adjusting for inflation). At $110 million, the most important indication from this is strongly positive audience response beyond what the first film received and a boosting of the series to an even higher level.
What comes next: Unlike "Breaking Dawn," these numbers are big enough to keep this going strong through the lucrative Christmas season.
2. Frozen (Buena Vista) - Week 2; Last weekend #22
$66,713,000 (+27,310%) in 3,742 theaters (+3,741); PSA: $17,828; Cumulative: $93,013,000
After its strong initial exclusive Los Angeles opening last weekend, "Frozen" broke out with a bang. The 5-day total of $92.7 million is $24 million more than Disney's "Tangled" in 2010, and four times that of last year's Dreamworks Animations' "Rise of the Guardians." In other words, very, very big, and likely just the start of a long run that could include Oscar wins and worldwide gross in the multiple hundreds of millions.
Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, this marks a major comeback for mainstream Disney storytelling. As usual, Disney assigned in-house creative people such as directors Chris Buck ("Surf's Up") and Jennifer Lee (who wrote last year's "Wreck-It Ralph") and producer Peter Del Vecho (a step ahead of the more modest "The Princess and the Frog" and "Winnie the Pooh"). At a cost of $150 million, "Frozen" needed to open strong. But with a rare A+ Cinemascore, it looks primed to just be starting a long run that should continue into the new year.
What comes next: This might actually compete for #1 next weekend. If it doesn't, it might end up the biggest grosser never to reach that level.