Box Office: ‘Hunger Games’ Gobbles Up $19.1 Million Opening Day, ‘Trolls 3’ Rolls to Second as ‘The Marvels’ Faces Brutal Drop

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” has caught some fire at the domestic box office. Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games” prequel earned about $19.1 million on its opening day from 3,776 locations, a figure that includes $5.75 million in Thursday previews.

The new installment in the young adult dystopian action series will still secure the top slot at the domestic box office over a busy weekend, which also sees the wide releases of the animated sequel “Trolls Band Together” and the seasonal slasher “Thanksgiving.”

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“Songbirds and Snakes” has a leg up with increased ticket prices from Imax and other premium large formats. It’s looking at a three-day tally of about $45 million, which would mark an okay debut for a franchise revival with a $100 million production budget. That’s still trending behind projections of $50 million heading into the weekend. It also has little hope of reaching the box office heights of previous “Hunger Games” entries. The 2012 original notched a March opening weekend record at the time with a staggering $152 million. “Catching Fire” followed with $158 million before the two-part “Mockingjay” finale sloped down with $121 million and $102 million.

Franchise nostalgia doesn’t seemed to have reached reviews, with the critical response around this entry marking a series-low. Early audiences are more positive though not over the moon, as indicated by the “B+” grade through research firm Cinema Score. The “Hunger Games” prequel will need to sustain some buzz through the Thanksgiving holiday to prove the property can still draw a crowd.

“Songbirds and Snakes” stars Tom Blyth as a young Coriolanus Snow, who will go on to lead the class disparity-plagued country of Panem in the original “Hunger Games,” a role played by Donald Sutherland in those. Rachel Zegler also stars as Hunger Games contestant Lucy Gray Baird, who charms Coriolanus. The cast also includes Hunter Schafer, Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis and Jason Schwartzman. Franchise regular Francis Lawrence returns to direct.

Meanwhile, “The Marvels” is facing a steep tumble in its second outing. The Marvel Studios production earned $2.8 million on Friday, down a staggering 87% from its opening day last week. It’ll be lucky to hit $10 million in its sophomore outing. Last spring’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” cinched the Marvel Cinematic Universe superlative for biggest second weekend plummet when it dropped 69.9%. Only a few months later, “The Marvels” seems likely to break that record.

Hefty percentage drop-offs from opening weekends are pretty commonplace among superhero entries, but “The Marvels” also got off to a slow start with a franchise record-low $46.1 million debut. Now, the film is fading quickly in a marketplace that will only get more crowded over the Thanksgiving holiday. Ten-day domestic total will fall around $64 million — a grim result considering the film’s $220 million production budget.

“Trolls Band Together” is headed for second place, projecting $30 million from 3,870 venues over the three-day frame. The DreamWorks Animation production earned $9.3 million on its opening day. That’s tracking behind the $46 million debut that the original “Trolls” landed in November 2016.

Barring the Minions and the Mario Bros., animated features have had trouble matching the blockbuster numbers that they could draw before the pandemic. “Band Together” won’t be a massive smash on that level, but it’s hoping to be a healthy hit. Though “Trolls” has never been a critical darling franchise, its jukebox musical slant has given the series some lasting appeal. Plus, the film sports a $95 million production budget, falling below the hefty price tags that come with other animation tentpoles.

“Band Together” will be fending for family audiences when it goes up against Disney’s own animated adventure “Wish” over the Thanksgiving holiday. A glowing “A” Cinema Score is an auspicious sign.

The “Trolls” threequel sees Queen Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) finally making their budding Troll romance official. But Branch’s boy band brothers step back into the picture and shake up the status quo. Then they all sing and dance together. Walt Dohrn returns to direct.

Sony’s slasher “Thanksgiving” earned $3.8 million across Thursday and Friday. The Eli Roth-directed horror film is now coming in a tad behind projections, looking at a $10 million debut. It’s not a very splashy figure — good for third or fourth place on domestic charts. But with a modest $15 million production budget, some notably positive reviews and the film’s eponymous holiday still ahead on the calendar, “Thanksgiving” is positioned to clean up nicely. There’s a “B-” Cinema Score grade to account for, but that’s pretty routine for a horror film.

Universal’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s” looks to round out the top five in its fourth weekend of release. The PG-13 adaptation of the massively popular horror video game series is looking at $3.1 million through the weekend, projecting another sizable drop. The domestic total should surpass $132 million by Sunday, ranking as the 17th-highest grossing North American release of the year.

Also opening nationwide, Searchlight Pictures is dropping Taika Waititi’s long-on-the-shelf soccer comedy “Next Goal Wins” in 2,240 theaters. The film will open outside the top five after earning a paltry $1.1 million on opening day. It’s a swerve from that platform release that the director’s last Searchlight film, “Jojo Rabbit,” rolled out with in 2019. But “Next Goal Wins” has much worse reviews after landing with a thud at the Toronto Film Festival. Audiences are more positive with a “B+.”

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