BOX OFFICE/OPINION

‘Hunger Games’ prequel wins for 2nd straight week


No one else volunteered as tribute over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" took home the box office title for the second straight week.

The YA novel adaptation brought in $42 million domestically over the long weekend, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore. Its second outing rivaled its opening weekend total of $44 million. The film has now brought in $98.37 million in the North American box office.

The race for second place was much tighter with Columbia Pictures and Apple's historical epic "Napoleon" grabbing a five-day total of $32.5 million in North America and Disney's fantasy adventure flick "Wish" hauling in $31.7 million.

Directed by Ridley Scott, "Napoleon" follows the rise, fall, return and second fall of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix) and his roller-coaster love affair with his first wife Joséphine (Vanessa Kirby). The film also stars Tahar Rahim, Rupert Everett and Ludivine Sagnier.

The R-rated drama scored a middling 61% critics score and a 59% audience score on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. It garnered a B-minus grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

"Too often, though, 'Napoleon's' withering condemnation of its subject feels less like a meaningful conclusion than a narrative dodge, a convenient way to sidestep a more trenchant, complicated look at Napoleon's political legacy," writes Times film critic Justin Chang.

"It's often been said, given Scott's skills as a superb visual craftsman and cinematic logician, that he's only ever as good as his material -- a reductive formulation that happens to be true in this instance. But it's also true that, not for the first time with a Scott picture, the theatrical version is just a teaser for what's to come," Chang continues. "A four-hour 'Napoleon' will stream on Apple TV+ at an unspecified date and, without judging it sight unseen, it seems reasonable to hope that it presents a richer, more cohesive and expansive vision of the story. Behind every so-so movie, after all, is a potentially great director's cut."

Critics weren't impressed, saying "Wish" felt more like a marketing than movie magic. So instead of righting an up-and-down year for Disney, "Wish" is, for now, adding to some of the studio's recent headaches, including the underperforming "The Marvels." The Marvel sequel has limped to $76.9 million domestically and $110.2 million overseas in three weeks.

"'Wish' ran into a much more competitive market than what Disney might normally see in the Thanksgiving corridor," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. "We're accustomed to seeing those Disney films at the top of the chart. They kind of had to split the audience with 'Trolls.'"

Still, the storybook isn't written yet on "Wish." It could follow the lead of Pixar's "Elemental," which premiered with a lukewarm $29.6 million in June but found its legs, ultimately grossing nearly $500 million worldwide.

Rounding out the top five at the domestic box office over the five-day weekend were Universal Pictures' "Trolls Band Together," which brought in $25.3 million in its second weekend for a North American cumulative of $64.47 million; and TriStar Pictures' "Thanksgiving," which scared up $11.13 million in its second turn for a North American total of $24.19 million.

Also entering wide-release over the holiday weekend was Emerald Fennell's "Saltburn," the writer-director's follow-up to 2020's "Promising Young Woman." After debuting in seven packed theaters two weekends back, "Saltburn" grossed $3.1 million over five days for Amazon and MGM. Barry Keoghan stars as an Oxford student befriended by a rich classmate (Jacob Elordi) and invited to his family's country manor.

As Hollywood's award season accelerates (Netflix debuted Bradley Cooper's "Maestro" in select theaters but didn't report grosses), Focus Features' "The Holdovers" continues to be one of the top choices in cinemas. Alexander Payne's film starring Paul Giamatti as a boarding school instructor made $3.8 million over the five-day weekend. In five weeks, it has grossed $12.9 million.

Opening this weekend in wide release are "Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé," which is being released through a direct distribution deal with AMC Theatres, Brainstorm Media's "Rise of the Footsoldier: Vengeance" and Lionsgate's "Silent Night."


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