Lionsgate’s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is headed for a $45 million-plus opening at the domestic box office after earning $19.1 million on Friday, easily enough to win the weekend but potentially coming in behind expectations.
Heading into the frame, tracking suggested the movie would take in at least $50 million as Lionsgate goes about the difficult task of trying to create a spinoff franchise. The studio is still hopeful that the pic will approach $50 million, but rival studios show it coming in between $46 million and $47 million.
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes opens eight years after the last Hunger Games played in theaters, and 12 years after the first film hit the big screen. The new movie earned a B+ CinemaScore, the lowest of the franchise. Females made up the majority of Friday’s audience — or 64 percent.
The four Hunger Games films, based on Suzanne Collins’ dystopian YA novels, starred Jennifer Lawrence and all opened north of $100 million domestically on their way to raking in $2.9 billion at the global box office.
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is based on Collins’ book of the same name. Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth lead the cast of the prequel, which also stars Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman and Viola Davis. Francis Lawrence, who helmed the previous four Hunger Games movies, returns in the director’s chair.
The dystopian action adventure kicks off the Thanksgiving box office this weekend alongside Universal and DreamWorks’ Trolls Band Together and TriStar and Spyglass Media Group’s slasher pic Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth.
Trolls Band Together earned $9.4 million on Friday for an estimated domestic opening of $30 million, in line with expectations and more than enough for a second-place finish. The family pic may have put off critics, but audiences bestowed it with an A CinemaScore. Trolls Band Together has already opened in a number of markets overseas, where it will likely finish Sunday with a foreign tally of $76.3 million and $106.3 million globally.
The threequel returns Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake to the roles of Poppy and Branch, who are now officially a couple. The movie was shepherded by returning director Walt Dohrn and producer Gina Shay. Similar to the Hunger Games prequel, the film is skewing female (69 percent).
The outlook continues to look bleak for superhero pic The Marvels, which is falling off 78 percent to 80 percent in its second outing to rank as Marvel Studios’ worst second-weekend drop of all time, as well as the worst for any Hollywood superhero pic. Among Marvel Cinematic Universe titles, threequel Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania previously sported the worst drop of 69 percent.
The Marvels is expected to earn $9 million to $10 million for the weekend, putting it in a potentially close race with Thanksgiving, although most rival studios show The Marvels coming in third ahead of Thanksgiving.
Roth’s latest horror offering earned $3.8 million on Friday, earned a B- CinemaScore and is skewing male (56 percent).
At the specialty box office, Oscar hopeful Saltburn is opening in seven locations. The MGM and Amazon film is on course to score a promising per-theater average of $45,400.
On Nov. 22, a Wednesday, Apple Original Films and Sony’s Napoleon and Disney Animation’s Wish take a seat at the Thanksgiving holiday table, among other offerings.