Once again, the odds are in the favor of Lionsgate, who have proven to be a bankable movie studio this year. Of course, they’ve had a major flop with Expend4bles, but John Wick: Chapter 4, Saw X, and now The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes have all been significant successes for the studio. With a budget of $100 million, the film climbed to the top of the box office leaderboard and snagged the same domestic opening number that The Marvels did, with a $44 domestic debut and $99 million worldwide.
It would be considered a flop if the film cost over $200 million. However, because the studio kept the budget in check, it can break even and become another massive commercial hit for Lionsgate despite mixed reviews. It’s clear the Hunger Games fanbase isn’t as strong as when the first film was released, but it still managed to impressively pull a strong opening, with a last-minute SAG-AFTRA interim agreement secured before the strike ended a few days later.
Trolls: Band Together also did impressively well, with a $30.6 million tally, finishing ahead of The Marvels but not reaching the same heights as The Hunger Games. Trolls World Tour was one of the most successful films of the earlier days of the pandemic, so it was a no-brainer that Universal would greenlight a sequel this fast, and it would turn a profit despite mixed reviews. VOD sales will likely also be huge.
Except for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, and Elemental, Disney’s 100th anniversary has so far been a disaster. The bad streak continues, with The Marvels breaking the worst second-weekend tally for a superhero movie OF ALL TIME. That’s right, worse than Morbius and The Flash, despite a better critical reception than many lousy superhero movies. Here’s hoping they’ll somewhat make up for their losses with the release of their latest animated film, Wish, which was designed to celebrate 100 years of Disney, but the reviews so far have seen its worst Rotten Tomatoes score for an animated production by the studio since Chicken Little, which has gone on to find a cult following.
It’s become increasingly clear that, in a post-COVID world, studios can no longer churn out $200 million+ blockbusters if they will continuously lose money, while mid-budget movies have proven to be more successful this year than the biggest productions of the year. I wouldn’t blame the entire thing on “superhero fatigue” (Deadpool 3 will probably clear $1 billion next year) because two of the highest-grossing movies of the year are superhero movies, but there’s a significant shift in viewing habits and audience appreciation.
Audiences now know when they aren’t being fed a product of high quality and would rather not want to spend money on another lousy movie and save it for something more worthwhile. After a strike that paralyzed the industry for over 100 days, studios have to think long and hard about how they will spend their resources on the next movies to drive audiences back to theaters. Jangling keys is now no longer a guarantee of success, and many brands have been officially bruised past the point of no return. Hopefully, the years ahead will paint a much brighter picture for film and television, but one thing’s for sure: studios need to spend less if they want to at least turn a profit.
Here is the full list of the top ten films of the weekend:
- The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (Lionsgate): $44.0M – 3,776 theatres
- Trolls: Band Together (Universal): $30.6M – 3,870 theatres
- The Marvels (Disney): $10.2M (-77.9%) – 4,030 theatres
- Thanksgiving (Sony): $10.2M – 3,204 theatres
- Five Nights at Freddy’s (Universal/Peacock): $3.5M (-61.1%) – 2,829 theatres
- The Holdovers (Universal): $2.7M (-16.2%) – 1,478 theatres
- Next Goal Wins (Disney): $2.5M – 2,240 theatres
- Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Variance Films): $2.4M (-60.6%) – 1,573 theatres
- Priscilla (A24): $2.3M (-49.4%) – 1,802 theatres
- Killers of the Flower Moon (Paramount/Apple TV+): $1.9M (-58.1%) – 1,714 theatres
Source: Box Office Mojo