'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1' will likely top Thanksgiving weekend

'Mockingjay - Part 1' could add $60 million over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend

Thanksgiving newcomers “Horrible Bosses 2” and “Penguins of Madagascar” likely will fly behind last weekend’s box office winner, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1.”

Entering the five-day holiday weekend, Lionsgate's latest installment in the “Hunger Games” franchise is expected to stay at No. 1. The film could add between $55 million to $60 million in ticket sales from Wednesday through Sunday, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. 

The animated film “Penguins of Madagascar” is tracking in second place with about $55 million to $58 million in its debut. The Warner Bros.-distributed comedy “Horrible Bosses 2” is expected to round out the top three with about $42 million.

This time last year, the holiday box office exploded with “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and Disney’s “Frozen." The films set records previously held by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for the highest Thanksgiving weekend grosses.

"Frozen” pulled in $93 million over the five-day holiday. "Catching Fire,” which was in its second weekend, added $110.2 million.

This Thanksgiving may not fare as well. The 2014 box office has been down overall, with films experiencing smaller debuts across the board. 

However, studios and movie chains remain optimistic that holiday ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada might come close to matching last year's record of $10.9 billion. The current box office is down almost 4% year to date.

“Mockingjay - Part 1” opened to $123 million last weekend, surpassing the $100-million debut of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” to become this year’s biggest opening to date.

The film fell short of the studio’s initial $130-million expectation and pulled in far less than forecasters' over-the-top projections of between $150 million to $170 million.

The opening installment of the two-part finale of the blockbuster franchise follows heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in District 13 as she transforms into the Mockingjay, a symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol.

It earned a high A-minus rating from audience polling firm CinemaScore and a decent 66% “fresh” rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Although some critics called it a solid segue, others complained that the two-part approach to the finale feels like a cheap cash-in.

Unsurprisingly, the young adult franchise has drawn audiences largely younger than 25. Based on the bestselling novels by Suzanne Collins, the “Hunger Games” movies have been huge hits for Santa Monica-based Lionsgate.

Younger audiences and families likely will flock to see “Penguins of Madagascar,” the spinoff of DreamWorks Animation’s "Madagascar" franchise distributed by Twentieth Century Fox.

The PG-rated film follows the penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private as they work with undercover organization the North Wind to stop Dr. Ocavius Brine from destroying the world. Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich voice some of the animated characters.

By comparison, the third installment in the PG-rated "Madagascar" franchise opened with a solid $60.4 million in 2012. "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” opened with $63.1 million in 2008 and ultimately collected $603.9 million worldwide.

According to Fandango, the nation’s largest online movie ticket company, “Penguins of Madagascar” scored 87 out of 100 points on the movie buzz indicator, coming in second to “Mockingjay - Part 1”’s score of 90.

Of the 1,000 “Penguins” ticket buyers surveyed, 85% said they have seen all three previous “Madagascar” films with their kids and 83% said they plan to see the movie as part of a Thanksgiving weekend outing.

The studio hopes the film will gross between $45 million to $49 million over the long weekend.

The raunchy, R-rated “Horrible Bosses 2” brings back comedic trio Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day). The Sean Anders-directed film, which cost about $43 million to make, also stars Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Fox and Chris Pine.

It will likely appeal to an older crowd and fans of its predecessor. In 2011, “Horrible Bosses” collected a solid $28.1 million in its opening weekend. It was well reviewed and well received by audiences.

Warner Bros. hopes the comedy sequel will pull in $40 million through Sunday.

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