UPDATE, MONDAY, 2:32 PM: Actuals weren’t drastically off from from their Sunday estimates. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 bested yesterday morning’s $21.6M with $22.03M. The only thing that’s down is this stinky weekend overall, which came in at the lower end of projections. Rentrak counts $77.5M, still the lowest for this post-holiday frame since 1998’s $72.8M and down 18% from last year ($94.5M). The  2014 domestic B.O. now drags 4.6%, or $463M, behind 2013.

But distributors aren’t sweating. If the course continues, we’ll just make it over $10B and could beat the five-year low — 2011’s $10.19B — with help from Exodus: Gods And Kings, The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies and the groundswell of family films including Annie and Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb. Keep in mind the following: Last year’s calendar year of $10.9B was an all-time record, and Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on Wednesday (how inconvenient is that for this industry??).

Both holidays this year fall on a Thursday, and that’s certainly better than a snowball in the eye: Distribs will enjoy two back-to-back four-day holiday weekends. 2008 was the last time the holidays fell on a Thursday. The Decemeber 19-25 week rang up $212M, and December 26-January 1 collected $383.4M. As of right now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Here are the top 20 weekend actuals courtesy of Rentrak:

  1. Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (LG) $22.026M (-61%), 4,054 locations (-97), $5,433 average, $258.15M 3 weeks
  2. Penguins Of Madagascar, (Fox), $10.9M (-57%), 3,775 locations (+11), $2,889 average, $49.4M, 2 weeks
  3. Horrible Bosses 2, (WB), $8.4M (-46%), 3,400 locations (+25), $2,477 average, $35.9M 2 weeks
  4. Big Hero 6 (Dis), $8M (-57%), 3,168 locations (-197), $2,539 average, $177.5M, 5 weeks
  5. Interstellar (Par), $7.79M (-51%), 3,028 locations (-38), $2,572 average, $158.4M, 5 weeks
  6. Dumb And Dumber To (U), $4.3M (-49%), 3,088 locations (-42), $1,385 average, $78.2M, 4 weeks
  7. The Theory Of Everything (Foc), $2.6M (-47%), 826 locations (+24), $3,203 average, $13.6M, 5 weeks
  8. Gone Girl (Fox), $1.47M (-40%), 1,205 locations (+31), $1,223 average, $162.8M, 10 weeks
  9. The Pyramid (Fox), $1.37M, 589 locations, $2,326 average, $1.37M, 1 week
  10. Birdman (Searchlight), $1.15M (-39%), 738 locations (+28), $1,559 average, $18.9M, 8 weeks
  11. Nightcrawler (OR), $1.069M (+26%), 1,269 locations (+699), $842 average, $30M, 6 weeks
  12. St. Vincent (TWC), $1.068M (-37%), 1,432 locations (+181), $746 average, $40.7M, 9 weeks
  13. Fury (Sony), $912K (-41%), 952 locations (-107), $958 average, $83.3M, 8 weeks
  14. Beyond The Lights (REL),$724K (-54%), 827 locations (-360), $875 average, $13.8M, 4 weeks
  15. Wild (Searchlight), $607K, 21 locations, $28,896 average, $654K, 1 week (bowed Wednesday)
  16. Foxcatcher (SPC), $517K (-45%), 75 locations (+3), $6,891 average, $2.78M, 4 weeks
  17. The Homesman (RSA), $482K (+122%), 154 locations (+104), $3,129 average, $1.047M, 4 weeks
  18. The Imitation Game (TWC), $389K (-19%), 8 locations (+4), $48,658 average, $1M, 2 weeks
  19. Whiplash (SPC), $317K (-30%), 173 locations (-5), $1,832 average, $4.38M, 9 weeks
  20. John Wick (LG), $315K (-44%), 407 locations (-81), $774 average, $42.1M, 7 weeks

PREVIOUS, SUNDAY, 10 AM: Blame the holidays, blame the films, blame whatever — but this weekend at the domestic box office was a real turd, generating between $77M-$79M, and if that figure sticks heading into tomorrow, it will be the lowest post Thanksgiving day December frame since 1998’s $66.4M $72.8M (per Rentrak) and 16-19% off last weekend at this point in time a year ago with $94.5M. While post-Labor Day was the worst so far this year with $65.7M, this weekend could wind up being lower than Super Bowl weekend (Jan. 31-Feb. 2) which drew $86.1M.  Here’s some reasons why this weekend B.O. bottomed out — and holiday festivities are no excuse:

1. The major studios had an opportunity to make money, and ignored it.
Whatever happened to the notion that moviegoing is a 52-week-a-year business? Distribution chiefs have that motto tattooed on their arms. If that’s the case, put your best foot forward.  While there’s the excuse that everyone is putting up a tree or drinking eggnog, movies can actually pull people away from the holiday party. If you release it, and it’s damn good, they will come. The post Thanksgiving December frame hasn’t always been snoozeville — this weekend has shown the potential to get near $100M with 2009 grossing $99.6M and 2003 chalking up $97.8M. Do you know why 2003 was the highest post Turkey frame at the box office? Because Warner Bros. had the cajones to release the Tom Cruise The Last Samurai which bowed to $24.3M and legged out stateside with $111M.  One rival major studio distribution chief said he went to the Landmark on Pico in LA this weekend to see The Imitation Game at 3PM, and “The place was buzzing”.  And as we’ve seen, arthouse films did very well this weekend with Fox Searchlight’s Wild grossing $30K per location for a studio reported 3-day of $630K.  Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 posted a nice No. 1 $21.6M in its third weekend, which means young folk actually spent money.  So there’s an audience out there that wants to see films, but their needs aren’t being served. Which means…

Box Office: 'Hunger Games' Will Be No. 1 In Slow Weekend2. Katniss isn’t enough to buoy the box office.
Some criticize the splitting of Mockingjay into two films as a greedy cash grab. That’s a hasty assumption for various reasons — first, two part finales have worked tremendously well at the domestic B.O in the past, and Mockingjay is doing fine in a soft market (it’s poised to be the second-highest grossing film of the year behind Guardians of the Galaxy, surpassing Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s $259.76M. That’s not a cash grab — that’s a solid tentpole). Even if Mockingjay was one all mighty film with one great big bang ending, it’s questionable if it would move the needle in terms of upticking the box office during a soft year (better to split up a franchise in installments and spread the wealth around). The current holiday marketplace is lacking other big tentpoles and franchise titles to further prop Hunger Games. Last year at this point in time it was Frozen and Catching Fire (together making at No. 1 and 2, $57.8M in third weekend). Thor: Dark World was even throwing some cash into the marketplace  In 2006, when the first weekend of December made $93.2M, there was a strong kids’ film Happy Feet, the Bond film Casino Royale and a Denzel Washington action film Deja Vu acting as girders for the weekend. Which means you can’t schedule at this time of year…

Horrible Bosses 23. Lightweight sequels
Even though Horrible Bosses 2 is programmed to make money, and despite its solid hold this weekend of -46% and $8.3M, it’s not an uber-big franchise comedy sequel, like an Anchorman or Hangover that’s setting the box office on fire.  Through its first two weekends it has only made $35.8M, trailing Dumb and Dumber 2 at the same point ($57.7M) in time by 38%. And you gotta figure that the same people that saw Dumb paid to see HB2.  With Penguins, which will pick up cash in the long run, it’s more of factor that the property skews much younger than a Big Hero 6.

 4. Thanksgiving weekend stunk, and now the first weekend of December is suffering for it.
When one of the the biggest weekends of the year is down 21% from a year ago (last weekend did $163.6M vs. last Turkey frame’s record high of $208.06M), that’s going to trickle over into your December, and the damage is double if there isn’t another notable wide frosh movie out there to help click turnstiles. While distributors will say that the impact didn’t rub any skin off their nose, you can’t ignore the fact that business is just down. Strong Thanksgiving weekends, such as last year’s, power into first December weekends.

Michael Keaton Edward Norton5.) Arthouse films, while solid, aren’t enough to blow up the charts
Sure, The Homesman is up 129% in its expansion with an estimated take of $497K, and Birdman and Theory of Everything are staying alive in the top 10 with respective takes of $2.6M and $1.1M, but these films are arguably still early in their release.  Birdman has been steady in 700-857 hubs for four weekends, but awards recognition hasn’t set in for these films yet to raise them to an awesome crossover number.  These titles need to make sure that they don’t oversaturate the market, so they can stick around in the long run.

 Here’s the top 10 weekend B.O. based on industry estimates:

1). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (LGF), 4,054 theaters (-97) /$6.5M Fri./ $9.7M Sat. (+49%)/ $5.2M Sun. (-46%) /3-day cume: $21.6M (-62%)/ Total cume: $257.8M/Wk 3

2). The Penguins Of Madagascar (FOX), 3,775 theaters (11)/ $2.3M Fri. /$5.3M Sat. (+121%)/ $3.4M Sun. (-35%) / 3-day cume: $11.1M (-56%)/ Total cume: $49.6M / Wk 2

3). Horrible Bosses 2 (WB), 3,400 theaters (+25) / $2.7M Fri. /$3.6M Sat. (+34%)/ $2M Sun. (-45%) / 3-day cume: $8.3M (-46%)/ Total cume: $35.8M / Wk 2

4). Big Hero 6 (DIS), 3,168 theaters (-197) / $1.7M Fri. /$3.9M Sat. (+118%)/ $2.4M Sun. (-38%) / 3-day cume: $8.1M (-57%)/ Total cume: $177.5M /Wk 5

5). Interstellar (PAR), 3,028 theaters (-38) / $2.1M Fri. /$3.5M Sat. (+68%)/ $2.1M Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $7.8M  (-50%)/ Total cume: $158.5M / Wk 5

6). Dumb and Dumber To (UNI), 3,086 theaters (-44) / $1.2M Fri./ $1.99M Sat. (+63%)/ $1M Sun. (-45%) /3-day cume: $4.2M  (-50%)/ Total cume: $78.2M /Wk 4

7). The Theory Of Everything (FOC), 826 theaters (+24) / $763K Fri. /$1.1M Sat. (+56%)/ $713K Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $2.6M (-48%)/ Total cume: $13.6M / Wk 5

8). Gone Girl (FOX), 1,205 theaters (+31) / $430K Fri. / $696K Sat. (+62%)/ $383K Sun. (-45%) /3-day cume: $1.4M (-43%)/ Total cume: $162.8M / Wk 10

Box Office: 'Hunger Games' Will Be No. 1 In Slow Weekend9). The Pyramid (FOX), 589 theaters/ $460K Fri. /$548K Sat. (+19%)/ $333K Sun. (-39%) / 3-day cume: $1.3M /Wk 1
This sci-fi horror film from Fox International Pictures wasn’t intended to send shock waves through the charts, that’s why the studio was low key on it.  They had modest expectations going in, and actually did a bit better than the $1M they were expecting. Saturday saw a boost of 19%. Limited release was too low to be graded by Cinemascore. 53% guys went to see it, 41% under 25 with ethnic breakdown being 31% African American and 15% Hispanic. Fox distrib suits will mull whether to expand tomorrow, but again, they always planned to make their bread with this film on overseas, not here.
10). Birdman (FSL), 738 theaters (+28) / 310K Fri. /$535K Sat. (+73%)/ $321K Sun. (-40%) /3-day cume: $1.1M/ Total cume: $18.9M /Wk 8

NOTABLES:

NightcrawlerNightcrawler (OPRD), 1.269 theaters (+699) / $309K Fri. / $477K Sat. (+54%) / $286K Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $1M (+18%) /Total cume: $30M/ Wk 6
Jake Gyllenhaal crime thriller passes $30M in its expansion fueled by five Indie Spirit noms.

Wild (FSL), 21 theaters / $170K Fri. /$260K Sat. (+53%)/ $200K Sun. (-22%) / 3-day cume: $634K / Per Screen Avg: $30K/ Total cume: $680K (Bowed Wednesday)/Wk 1

Foxcatcher (SPC), 75 theaters (+3) / $142K Fri. /$243K Sat. (+71%)/ $146K Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $530 (-49%)/ Total Cume: $2.6/ Wk 4

The Homesman (RSA), 154 theaters (+104) / $158K M Fri. /$206K Sat. (+30%)/ $133K Sun. (-40%) / 3-day cume: $497K (+129%) / Total cume: $1.05M / Wk 4

The Imitation Game (TWC), 8 theaters (+4)  / $108K Fri. /$163K Sat. (+51%)/ $130K Sun. (-20%) / 3-day cume: $385K (-20%)/ Per Screen Avg: $48K/ Total cume: $990K/ Wk 2