Update, Wednesday 8 AM: Warner Bros./New Line’s R-rated sequel Horrible Bosses 2 nabbed an early bonus last night with $1 million at Tuesday night previews. The comedy about a trio of wacky business guys who kidnap their investor’s son will be playing at 3,321 locations today and expand to 3,375 on Friday. That figure outstrips the $365K chunk of cash Horrible Bosses stole from late night previews in July 2011.
Previous, Tuesday 1:18 PM: Penguins will try to carve into a Katniss’ Thanksgiving feast this weekend at the box office but, despite a lower-than-expected debut from the penultimate Hunger Games entry last week, look for the Suzanne Collins adaptation to retain the holiday crown over Madagascar‘s latest entry.
Mockingjay, like Catching Fire last year, has the benefit of Thanksgiving traffic. However, Catching Fire was coming off a franchise record bow and spurred an all-time record for any film, opener or second-framer, playing the Thanksgiving five-day period of Wednesday through Sunday with $109.9M. Disney’s Frozen, which bowed on that Wednesday, posted the second-best record ever for that 5-day holiday frame with $93.59M. In its second weekend, Catching Fire grossed $74.2M, down 53% from its $158.1M. Industry box office crunchers are expecting a similar three-day drop of 55-60% for Mockingjay. A 60% decline would put Mockingjay in the $48M-$50M, with a five-day draw of $65M-$70M. The original Hunger slipped 61% from its opening frame. Fandango’s buzz meter shows that Mockingjay is still the top draw at 90 points, versus Penguins Of Madagascar at 87 and Horrible Bosses at 84. On Monday, Mockingjay made $8.97M, raising its cume to $130.9M.
The question is how eager young women, which sits at the center of distributor Lionsgate Film’s crosshairs, will be to hawk the film in its sophomore frame. Exits are mixed; while Mockingjay earned an A- on Cinemascore (Hunger and Fire caught A’s), the jury’s verdict is more hung on social media, where some diehards have complained about the movie’s darker tone and split finale. The Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 66% also suggests a murkier run than predecessors.
The audience for DreamWorks Animation’s The Penguins Of Madagascar, meanwhile, will be an easier read for its distributor Fox. The spinoff of the popular penguins from the Madagascar franchise have been building a pre-teen fan base since the first hit in 2005. Since then, the Madagascar franchise has averaged $56.8M an opening and cruised to overall grosses averaging $196.6M. While these flightless birds aren’t likely to match its ancestral box office potency, the film, directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith is looking at a $30M-$32M three-day and a $41M-$45M five-day haul at 3,762 theaters. But as Big Hero 6 demonstrated, family fare is not to be trifled with, particularly during holidays.
Last among the major newcomers is New Line/WB’s R-rated Horrible Bosses 2, a follow-up to the surprise 2011 comedy, which opened to $28.3M and collected $117.5M overall. This one is tricky to call because comedy sequels are so unpredictable: they have to re-capture the lightning in a bottle of the first without looking derivative. That was no problem for 22 Jump Street, which opened to $57M on its way to $191.7M. Or they can go the route of Grown Ups, which collected $162M in 2010, but $133.6M the second go round last year. The Bosses re-team of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis is looking at a strong-than-original bow of $31M-$33M over the three-day, and low to mid $40M over the long weekend.
Brian Brooks will be weighing in with the arthouse preview. Of note, Weinstein Co. will be unspooling its critically acclaimed WWII period drama The Imitation Game about British mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the Nazi U-boat code Enigma in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Friday. Pic has an 84% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this report.