The holiday box office exploded this weekend as both “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Frozen” topped records held by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for the biggest three-day and five-day Thanksgiving weekend grosses.
Generating a studio-estimated $66.7-million, three-day gross and $93 million, five-day gross (films opened Wednesday evening in time for the holiday, instead of the usual Thursday evening) Disney’s “Frozen” also marked the biggest Thanksgiving-weekend opening ever, beating three-day and five-day records set in 1999 by “Toy Story 2.”
Meanwhile, in its second week in wide release, Lionsgate’s “Catching Fire” -- a dystopian thriller about children pitted against each other in a fight to the death -- continued its box-office rampage, pulling in domestically a studio-estimated $74.5 million over three days and $110.2 million over five days, and a jaw-dropping worldwide gross of $573 million.
The three-day and five-day domestic figures broke records of $57.5 million and $82.4 million, respectively, set in 2001 by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” giving “Catching Fire” the highest-grossing Thanksgiving weekend of all time, on top of its all-time record November opening.
Walt Disney Studios, which has been on a tear this year with mega-hits like “Thor: The Dark World,” “Iron Man 3" and “Planes,” announced Sunday that it had reached the $4-billion mark at the global box office for the first time in its history.
Both “Catching Fire” and “Frozen” are audience and critical darlings. The former drew an A rating according to CinemaScore, a research firm that polls moviegoers, and the latter received a coveted A+ rating.
The A+ is a distinction held by a select few films that have gone on to become classics including “The King’s Speech,” “Titanic” and most recently Universal Pictures’ “The Best Man Holiday.” The Malcolm D. Lee-directed rom-com held tight at the box office over the weekend, coming in at fourth place with $8.5 million, below Disney’s other big box office winner, “Thor: The Dark World,” which pulled in $11.1 million.
That Disney is thriving on a global level is thanks in large part to the scope of its reach toward all types of audiences. That a violent film like “Thor” can thrive alongside a holiday classic in the making like “Frozen” is testament to what Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of theatrical distribution, calls the studio’s “tent-pole strategy.”
“It’s a nice portfolio of branded offerings,” said Hollis on Sunday. “And it’s driving all sorts of people to movie theaters.”
As expected, “Frozen” drove mostly families to the big screen with 81% of its audience identifying as such. But it also performed well in all age brackets with 42% of its audience at least 26 years old. Children ages 2 to 11 accounted for 38% of the audience.
“Frozen” is an animated 3-D musical directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and featuring the voices of Kristen Bell, Josh Gad and Idina Menzel. It follows a young girl in an epic journey to find her lost sister in a kingdom that is trapped in eternal winter.
“For a company built on animation, to have an animated film be the biggest Thanksgiving opening ever is particularly special,” said Hollis. Notably, the film was made by Disney Animation Studios and not a more modern incarnation like Pixar.
Elsewhere at the box office the Open Road Films’ thriller “Homefront,” starring Jason Statham, pulled in nearly $7 million in three days to come in at No. 5 for the weekend.
In addition, Fox Searchlight’s “Black Nativity,” based on the play by Langston Hughes, earned $3.9 million and came in at No. 8, just below Fox Searchlight’s family friendly picture, “The Book Thief,” which expanded into more than 1,000 theaters this weekend and grossed $4.9 million.