UPDATE, Sunday AM Writethru Final: The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is coming in at the bottom of where we were seeing it yesterday, with a $44M opening. The hope was that this Suzanne Collins prequel was bound to file $50M+. Overseas was better at $54.5M, for a $98.5M Global opening.
Saturday stateside for Songbirds & Snakes was $15M, coming off of a $19.1M Friday, -21%, with a Sunday projected of $9.9M.
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There is some great word of mouth for the movie among the under-25 female crowd, which could help the pic during the Thanksgiving stretch. However, this film was frontloaded, à la any YA movie aimed at women. That said, two types of movies work over Thanksgiving: Family and PG-13 aimed at a fervent demo. Songbirds and Snakes falls into the latter category.
After The Marvels posted a franchise low for the Marvel Cinematic Universe of $46.1M, isn’t Songbirds and Snakes also a misfire? Not necessarily, and at a $100M-plus production cost, 65% of which is funded by foreign sales, with another $20M+ in German tax credits, the Lionsgate Francis Lawrence-directed movie is structured completely differently financially than the $200M The Marvels. Lionsgate has largely covered their nut and exposure in foreign territory licensing, materially participating after their partners recover their costs. Songbirds & Snakes will be profitable, with a domestic end results between $120M-$130M. Still, there didn’t seem to be any kind of urgency here on behalf of fans to reignite new life into Hunger Games.
The challenge here for Lionsgate in launching this movie all along, aside from the actors strike, is the fact that the Collins novel wasn’t a big hit like the others, hitting shelves during Covid, with 3.5M novels sold. The other factor that can’t be ignored is that Hunger Games die-hards were upset when the studio split up Mockingjay into two movies. Lawrence heard the outcry, and has his regrets.
While Lionsgate did have a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement rather late in the campaign and the strike did end, giving them close to two weeks to trot their cast out between London, Berlin, and Hollywood, there’s no question that the thespian walkout since July hurt the major beats of Songbirds & Snakes marketing campaign. Like The Marvels, this is a movie that could have had a major blast-off at San Diego Comic-Con, sans a strike.
The bigger question going forward is whether or not this is enough to keep a franchise going. By major studio standards, it is not. It’s going to be more expensive to mount a sequel. When Fantastic Beasts came out and opened to $74.4M domestic, $218.3M, we slammed it, saying that it wasn’t enough to fire off a five-film franchise. That was correct on a box office basis, and the Harry Potter spinoff only made it to three films (versus the planed five), with grosses plummeting with each installment. However, the way studios look at these movies, even with declining grosses, is that they’re a catalyst to other parts of the business, i.e. theme parks, merchandise, and the overall home sales of older movies in the franchise.
At the same time, Fantastic Beasts opened up a new box office benchmark for prequel movies (meaning openings under the $80M threshold), and what their potential could be when such titles veered from the core franchise. The first Fantastic Beasts opening stateside was 56% off from the opening of the final Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s $169.1M. Songbirds & Snakes‘ start is down -57% from the last Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2‘s $102.6M opening.
“This is to be expected,” is what several distributions sources are telling me about the results here, many sensitive to the fact that Songbirds & Snakes‘ campaign was off-kilter because of actors forbidden to promote.
All of this said, by film foreign sales funding standards, the opening here for the Hunger Games prequel is alright. “If each major foreign partner fares well in their territories with the movie, they’ll definitely buy into another Hunger Games installment, no question about it,” says one foreign sales big macher.
“This isn’t so much about expanding the franchise as rebuilding it,” says the same source about Songbirds & Snakes, which arrived in theaters eight years after Mockingjay 2. The distance between Deathly Hallows 2 and Fantastic Beasts was only five years.
However, something seems off here in getting a vibrant word of mouth out to fans despite the strike. True, Spotify was a big partner in the premiere and strutting the music. But I don’t think moviegoers were aware of the sublime country song ballads, and how different this movie is from the bows and arrow action of the core franchise. Another obstacle was the fact that this was a movie as a dark, character-driven origin tale. There’s an argument to be made that these songs should have been out there for awards season consideration purposes (they’re certainly worthy) and to raise the movie’s profile significantly earlier.
However, Lionsgate didn’t want to position this movie as a musical. That was too challenging and too risky an angle in bringing back the die-hards. Lionsgate had social media gold in 3x Grammy winner Olivia Rodrigo. However, because of the record label and actors strike, they couldn’t drop her end-credits song, “Can’t Catch Me Now,” until two weeks before the movie’s release. Rodrigo also showed up at the premiere giving the three-finger Hunger Games salute (see what we captured at the premiere below). Rodrigo’s involvement in the movie was revealed in a Times Square event, timed to the tickets on sale date, and a broadcast on TikTok.
Lionsgate dropped the first trailer for Songbirds & Snakes at CinemaCon at the end of April. They also treated press to a special event, the Hunger Games Experience in Las Vegas, where 21 superfans, aka “The Gems of Panem,” were a key part of spreading word to fans as they received exclusive assets and revealed and teased drops and shared behind-the-scenes content.
RelishMix shows that Songbirds & Snakes‘ social media universe reach actually outstripped that of Trolls Band Together, 393M to 287M across X, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The juice of that for the prequel was in TikTok, with behind the scenes content to introducing the new cast at a Times Square event. Views on the platform surged into the billions.
Other promo partners for Songbirds & Snakes included Gibson Guitars, Urban Outfitters, Poshmark, Butter London, and 1-800-Flowers. The products & experiences team worked with ShoptheScenes.com and Walmart to create official in-world merchandise and memorabilia boxes for the ultimate Hunger Games fan, Aviator Nation, Hot Topic (where the initial release of the collection is already sold out and being restocked), and Academy Adventures (an immersive experience on Roblox that has reached 1.1 million visits).
Even with Songbirds and Snakes opening, there’s nothing wrong with feeding the franchise: The mere opening of this movie will reignite the Hunger Games library over the holiday period, as many return to the original movies either in PVOD, SVOD, etc.
Another comp here for Songbirds and Snakes is the second Divergent: Insurgent, which cost $110M and opened to $52.2M domestic, and legged out to $130.1M U.S./Canada and $297M. That sequel had an A- Cinemascore.
The CinemaScore for Songbirds & Snakes came in at B+, the lowest for the Hunger Games franchise, but not far from both Mockingjay‘s A-. However, hope prevails in other exits. On PostTrak, Songbirds & Snakes is still 4 1/2 stars, with 87% positive. Best scores come from women under 25 at 93% who were the biggest demo for the movie at 37%. The 18-24 bunch at 45%, the biggest age demo, embraced Songbirds & Snakes with a 90% grade. Women over 25 at 27% gave it an 85%. Men over 25 at 21% graded it at 81%, while men under 25 showed up at 15% with an 83% grade.
Diversity demos were 50% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic and Latino, 11% Black, and 10% Asian. Sixty-nine percent definite recommend. Hopefully, this provides a great multiple heading into Thanksgiving. Some believe that the prequel didn’t shed much, despite sharing the marquee with another girl-skewing title, Trolls Band Together. The latter is more family, and Songbirds and Snakes more adolescent.
Interesting thing about the movie is that it’s not a typical NYC and L.A. type of movie: Highest- grossing theater is the AMC Boston Commons, with $101K so far. The pic is playing best in the South and Mountain Regions. Imax and PLFs are only fueling 36% of the weekend gross, which seems low for a tentpole. North American Imax results were $4.1M, or 9% of the weekend total. The prequel will share Imax screens with Napoleon over Thanksgiving. Rotten Tomatoes upticked to 60% fresh with critics.
With an overall total of four wide releases, the fall weekend box office is showing the third-best result post Labor Day, with $116.5M after the weekend of Oct. 13-15 ($132.5M, when Taylor Swift opened) and Oct. 27-29 ($126.1M, when Five Nights at Freddy’s opened). This weekend is +16% from the pre-Thanksgiving period a year ago, which did $100.6M, led by the second weekend of Wakanda Forever, which was $66.4M.
Second place goes to Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together, which is coming up strong with a $30.6M opening after a $9.35M Friday and $12.2M Saturday.
Let’s take a moment here to reflect on what a great opening this is for Uni, DWA, and the Trolls band after the whole Trolls World Tour going PVOD noise. You’ll remember before theaters closed, Uni made the decision to go day-and-date with that movie on PVOD, which ultimately became a lone PVOD release. That didn’t hurt Trolls one bit, and audiences came back.
There’s something else that’s amazing here with Trolls Band Together: Universal fiercely dated this female-skewing movie before Disney’s Thanksgiving- skewing girl animated musical movie, Wish, which opens Wednesday to what is potentially $45M-$50M over 5-days. Is Universal out of their freakin’ minds? “No,” says one rival studio exec, “If this was seven years ago, you’d have to worry about Disney. But with their brand rusting, you don’t need to worry about them anymore.” The notion is that two animated musical movies for girls can live in the holiday box office for the next month-plus.
The opening is off 35% from the original Trolls‘ $46.5M back in 2016. The threequel debut here is heads and tails above Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which had a $12.4M opening (that was because of the winter cold spell last year at Christmas) which mushroomed into a 15x legout to $185.5M stateside.
The Walt Dohrn-directed threequel gets an A CinemaScore, just like the first one. PostTrak is great at 85% and 67% recommend, with kids under 12 hugging Trolls 3 at 95%. Mom-leaning at 71% female, with 31% of the audience between 18-34. The largest adult quad was 35-44 years old at 27%. Under 17 was 34%. Diversity demos are 37% Latino and Hispanic, 34% Caucasian, 11% Asian, and 10% Black. Trolls 3 are ruling South Central, Midwest and West. The Marcus Majestic Brookfield, WI is leading the pack with $39K in gross (including early shows). Top 10 markets are LA, NYC, Dallas, Chicago, Houston, San Fran, Philly, DC, Toronto and Phoenix.
Beamed Domestic Distribution head Jim Orr: “Trolls Band Together is off to a dazzling start at the domestic box office.Audiences across North America are singing the praises of and along with these iconic characters that continue to mesmerize all ages.”
Third place belongs to Disney’s The Marvels, with a second Friday of $2.8M (ouch, -87%), Saturday of $4.4M, and second weekend forecast of $10.2M, -78% –the biggest second weekend drop ever for an MCU title, and a running total of $65M by EOD Sunday.
TriStar/Spyglass Media’s Thanksgiving made $3.825 million on Friday, $3.865 million on Saturday, with a Sunday figured at $2.5M at 3,204 locations. That’s $10.2M for the weekend; we’ll see if it’s third or fourth tom’w AM. B- CinemaScore, which is par for a horror movie, and 74% positive on PostTrak. That 3-day is a great start, and enough with leftovers to go around on this $15M budgeted horror pic. At 83% positive on RT, it’s the best-reviewed movie ever for filmmaker Eli Roth. Turnout is 56% guys, with 65% of the audience between 18-34 and the largest demo being 18-24 at 36%. Diversity mix was 46% Caucasian, 26% Latino and Hispanic, 16% Black, and 13% Asian/other. Thanksgiving played pretty even throughout the country, but strongest in the East. The AMC Burbank was the highest-grossing venue in the country with $20,5K through previews, Friday, and Saturday.
Searchlight’s Next Goal Wins in 7th place is running into foul poles as expected, with a $2.5M opening after $1.1M Friday. B+ CinemaScore. This is to be expected for a movie that critics turned their noses up at 41% Rotten for the Oscar-winning Jojo Rabbit filmmaker Taika Waititi. PostTrak audiences were similar to CinemaScore, with 86% positive and 65% recommend for the general audience. Men attended at 60%, with 52% between 18-34, with the biggest demo being 25-34 at 30%. Diversity demos were 55% Caucasian, 18% Latin and Hispanic, 5% Black, & 22% Asian/other. Best area for the movie, if we can say that, was the middle of the country. The Regal Winward Honolulu HI was the highest-grossing cinema in the country, with $9K so far.
Amazon MGM/MRC’s Saltburn, the second movie from Oscar-winning filmmaker Emerald Fennel, hit seven locations this weekend, with a great theater average of $45,1K. Projected weekend is $316K after a $168K Friday. Pic is booked at AMC Century City, AMC Grove LA, AMC Burbank, Angelika NYC, AMC Lincoln Square, Alamo Brooklyn (the best of the bunch with over $34K) and Alamo South Lamar in Austin. Seventy four percent fresh from RT Critics for this Oxford University student thriller noir, who snakes his way into his colleagues’ wealthy family during the course of a summer. Another Jacob Elordi hit at the specialty box office. Pricilla brought in $2.3M this weekend, hitting $16.9M, which takes over Marie Antoniette as Sofia Coppola’s second-highest grossing movie at the domestic B.O., her top being Lost in Translation ($44.5M).
Studios reported figures:
1.) Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (LG) 3,776 theaters Fri $19.1M Sat $15M Sun $9.9M 3-day $44M/Wk 1
2.) Trolls Band Together (Uni/DWA) 3,870 theaters Fri $9.35M Sat $12.2M Sun $8.97M 3-day $30.6M/Total $31.7M
3.) The Marvels (Dis) 4,030 theaters Fri $2.8M Sat $4.4M Sun $3M 3-day $10.2M (-78%) Total $65M/Wk 2
4.) Thanksgiving (Sony) 3,204 theaters, Fri $3.8M Sat $3.86M Sun $2.5M 3-day $10.2M/Wk 1
5.) Five Nights at Freddy’s (Uni) 2,829 (-865) theaters, Fri $940K Sat $1.57M Sun $990K 3-day $3.5M (-61%), Total $132.6M/Wk 4
6.) The Holdovers (Foc) 1478 (+700) theaters Fri $800K Sat $1.1M Sun $780K/3-day $2.7M (-16%), Total $8.35M/Wk 4
7.) Next Goal Wins (Sea) 2,240 theaters Fri $1.1M Sat $822K Sun $578K 3-day $2.5M/Wk 1
8.) Taylor Swift: Eras Tour (AMC) 1,573 (-1275) theaters, Fri $655K Sat $1M Sun $745K 3-day $2.4M (-61%)/Total $175.3M/ Wk 6
9.) Priscilla (A24) 1,802 (-559) theaters, Fri $731K Sat $922K Sun $673K 3-day $2.32M (-50%), Total $16.98M/Wk 4
10.) Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple/Par) 1,714 (-1,643) theaters Fri $530K Sat $840K Sun $550K 3-day $1.92M (-58%)/Total $63.5M/Wk 5
UPDATE, Friday PM: Lionsgate’s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is looking at a Friday between $18.5M-$20M (that includes previews) for an opening between $45M-$50M at 3,776 theaters. Some rivals have director Francis Lawrence’s fourth Hunger Games movie between $45M-$47M. The competition isn’t snarking over the fact that this movie might come in under $50M, sympathetic to the fact that the current marketplace needs to be graded on a curve for a while due to the aftermath of the strikes and actors’ forbidden to promote, but also it’s not a bad result for a movie that cost $100M+.
Aside from critics on Rotten Tomatoes at 59% Rotten, what gives Lionsgate and others hope is that no one is hating on the prequel like The Marvels after great exits last night and a current RT audience score of 91%. The box office tale of Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will be told after its run over Thanksgiving. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 went on to do around another $100M after its opening weekend after Black Friday weekend. Songbirds & Snakes has all the Imax, PLFs, 4DX and premium ticket showtimes.
Booked at 3,870 theaters, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together looks solid with a $8.7M Friday (including $1.3M previews) and a $28M 3-day and $29.1M total which includes sneak previews. Critics aren’t over the moon at 57% Rotten. No RT audience score yet.
Disney/Marvel Studios’ The Marvels at 4,030 is seeing a second Friday of $3.5M and second weekend of $12.25M (-73%) for a running total by Sunday of $67M.
In fourth place is Tri-Star/Spyglass Media’s Eli Roth horror pic, Thanksgiving with a $4M Friday and $10M 3-day at 3,204 theaters.
Fifth is Universal’s Five Nights at Freddy’s at 2,829 theaters with a fourth Friday of $900K and fourth frame of $3.1M, -66%, for a running total of $132.2M by Sunday. The movie is also available on Peacock.
Outside the top 5 is Searchlight’s Next Goal Wins which is seeing $817K, and a $2.2M very low opening at 2,240 theaters. Reviews were awful at 41% Rotten for Taika Waititi’s post Searchlight pic after his Oscar adapted screenplay win for Jojo Rabbit. The movie harkens back to his indie-style of capturing the nuances of real-life people (think his 2016 movie The Hunt for the Wilderpeople). It’s neither zany, star-studded anarchistic absurdity ala Jojo Rabbit nor is it Thor, which is making it a challenge at the box office.
UPDATED EXCLUSIVE, Friday AM: Lionsgate’s Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ Thursday is officially $5.75M.
Comps here are spinoffs such as Hobbs & Shaw ($5.8M) and The Nun ($5.4M); pics that opened north of $50M+. Last Thursday, The Marvels did $6.6M before sputtering at a $46.1M, the lowest opening ever for a Disney MCU movie.
Ignore the critics, because the first exits for the prequel are very good. Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak shows 4 1/2 stars and 87% positive with a 70% definite recommend. Meanwhile, the Rotten Tomatoes audience score stands at 90%. True, the faithful come out first on Thursday, but that bodes well for word of mouth, and getting the excitement out there to others over the holiday week. Parents (mostly moms at 76%) gave the movie 5 stars/94% and kids under 12 are 4 1/2 stars/81%.
Women showed up last night to Songbirds & Snakes at 65%, which is a tad higher than Mockingjay 2‘s 60%. The 18-34 turnout was huge at 75%. Biggest demos in descending order were women under 25 at 36%, followed by women over 25 at 28%, men over 25 at 21% and men under 25 at 14%. Girls under 12 showed up at 75% with kids overall saying that the movie is a must-see at 94%.
Universal is official reporting $1.3M in previews from 3,050 theatres for DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together from showtimes that began at 2PM. Five stars on PostTrak from general audiences and 4 1/2 stars from parents. Overall audience was 62% female, with 52% over 25, 48% under. DreamWorks Animation’s Bad Guys posted a preview of $1.1M and debuted to $23.95M. That’s one comp.
Tri-Star/Spyglass Media’s Thanksgiving grossed $1M in Thursday previews that began at 7 p.m. from 2,720 locations. The movie at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes is filmmaker Eli Roth’s best-reviewed film to date. PostTrak exits at 73% positive and 3 1/2 stars are to be expected for an R-rated genre movie that pulled in guys last night at 60%, 66% between 18-34.
Searchlight’s Next Goal Wins from Taika Waititi is also wide today. The soccer comedy is 78% positive and 4 stars with moviegoers on PostTrak.
Rest of Thursday and the week is as follows:
1.) The Marvels (Dis) 4,030 theaters Thu $1.2M (-31% from Wed), Wk $54.8M/Wk 1
2.) Pricilla (A24) 2,361 theaters Thu $382K (-23%), Wk $6.5M, Total $14.4M/Wk 3
3.) Five Nights at Freddys (Uni) 3,694 theaters Thu $355K (-20%) Wk $10.9M, Total $129.1M/Wk 3
4.) Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple/Par) 3357 theaters Thu $347K (-24%), Wk $6.3M Total $61.6M/Wk 4
5.) The Holdovers (Foc) 778 theaters Thu $263K (-21%) Wk $4.5M/Total $5.6M/Wk 3.
EXCLUSIVE, Thursday, 10:21 PM: Lionsgate’s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is looking at a Thursday night between $5.75M-$6M after showtimes that began at 3PM.
Again, these numbers aren’t from the studio and we could see a slightly different result by morning. While some will be quick to yell that Marvel Studios’ misfire last weekend, The Marvels, began its weekend journey with a Thursday night of $6.6M which resulted in the lowest opening ever for a Disney MCU title at $46.1M, note that Songbirds & Snakes cost half the price of The Marvels‘ $200M at $100M. Furthermore, Lionsgate always covers their risk on a big title with a bulk of foreign sales.
Projections heading into the weekend were at $50M+ stateside, $100M+ worldwide. We’ll see where this lands. Part of the uphill battle for the movie is that it’s a brand new cast sans franchise star Jennifer Lawrence, and one character to crossover from the core franchise, that being Coriolanus Snow. Similar to that first movie when Lawrence wasn’t a marquee name, Lionsgate is rolling the dice on the Suzanne Collins brand’s relaunch on West Side Story actress Rachel Zegler as fiery tribute Lucy Gray Baird and even fresher-face, UK actor Tom Blyth playing Snow.
Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes‘ preview night isn’t that far from Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw‘s $5.8M (7PM showtimes start) which went on to a $60M opening; this despite the fact that movie was extremely male-leaning to Hunger Games‘ female crowd. Another comp that’s being used is Amazon/MGM’s Creed III which did $5.4M in its Thursday night preview and yielded a $58.3M 3-day. Closer to the female demo is Conjuring spinoff The Nun which minted a $5.4M Thursday and $53.8M 3-day with women turning out at 49% per CinemaScore over its weekend.
Note, Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes was never going to post a preview in the vicinity of the last Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 which came out in November 2015 and did a $16M Thursday night for the lowest domestic opening in the Collins franchise of $102.7M. Nor was Songbirds & Snakes bound to emulate Harry Potter 2016 spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which saw a Thursday night of $8.75M and 3-day of $74.4M U.S./Canada. Essentially, Hunger Games‘ fanbase isn’t as broad as Harry Potter‘s. (Fantastic Beasts skewed 55% female to Mockingjay 2‘s 60% female, with a majority of Potter fans older with 65% over 25 vs. Mockingjay 2‘s 50/50 split for the under/over 25 crowd).
Part of the challenge here for Lionsgate in getting audiences out to the prequel is that Hunger Games fans weren’t fully aware there was a new novel by Collins: It was released during the heart of Covid in May 2020 only seeing 500K sales in its first week per NPD BookScan when bookstores were closed. That sales figure ultimately rose to 3.5M copies sold.
While critics numbering 112 on Rotten Tomatoes are giving Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes the lowest score in the franchise at 64% fresh, the series has often been critic proof, and has held quite well during the holiday season. Mockingjay 2 amassed $198.5M in its first ten days of release thanks to the Thanksgiving day stretch.
Social media analytics firm RelishMix says that social media convo on Songbirds & Snakes “is running mixed-leaning-positive with snarky Gen Z and younger new Millennial fans whistling their praises for the latest entry to the franchise. Many are enamored by the nostalgia the franchise brings back from their childhoods: ’14-year-old me is so happy, and 25-year-old me is sobbing.’ Others remark, ‘Look, I have absolutely no idea what this book is about, but when I saw that bowing pose, it’s like seeing Katniss again. This movie will heal trauma from my childhood.'”
Other preview figures we’ve heard about, but Universal hasn’t weighed in on, is DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together with around $2M off showtimes that began at 2PM. That threequel is looking at a high $20M-low $30M start. The movie also has the lowest RT score in the franchise with critics at 62% fresh. If that preview figure is right, it’s heads and hair above Trolls‘ $900K in Thursday previews, and higher than the Tuesday night previews of Illumination/Universal’s Sing at $1.7M.
TriStar and Spyglass Media have Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving horror film which should do in the teens in its opening weekend while Searchlight’s Taika Waititi comedy Next Goal Wins is looking at single digits. More on those in the AM.
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