'Hunger Games' Sequel Retains No. 1 Spot Over Holiday Weekend

Benefits From Another Week Without Fresh Competition for Young Adults

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"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," the film sequel about teens fighting a totalitarian regime, held the top spot in U.S. and Canadian cinemas for a second weekend with $110.2 million in sales for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

"Frozen," the animated feature from Walt Disney Co., took in $93 million in over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, after expanding to more theaters, Rentrak Corp. said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

"Catching Fire," with Jennifer Lawrence returning as the heroine Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as co-combatant Peeta Mellark, is benefiting from three weeks without fresh competition for young-adult audiences. On Dec. 13, Time Warner Inc.'s New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. release "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," the second of three films planned from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

"'Catching Fire' is doing well beyond my expectations," said Gitesh Pandya, editor of Boxofficeguru.com. "I'm projecting that this film will end up with more than $400 million just in North America. It should finish about the same level than the first movie and it should do much better at the international level."

So far, "Catching Fire" has taken in $573 million in domestic and international box office sales, according to Rentrak. The first "Hunger Games" movie in 2012 generated $283.2 million internationally and $408 million in the U.S. and Canada. From Friday to Sunday, a normal three-day weekend, "Catching Fire" collected $74.5 million, according to Rentrak. BoxOffice.com, another industry researcher, was projecting $60 million.

Deadly foes
"Catching Fire" picks up where the original film, "The Hunger Games," left off, with Everdeen and Mellark touring the fictional nation of Panem after winning the 74th Hunger Games. They inadvertently become symbols of rebellion and are forced to compete again, this time against more deadly foes -- former winners like themselves.

Donald Sutherland again stars as President Snow, and Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci return in supporting roles. The film is based on the novels by Suzanne Collins. Lions Gate plans a third film next year and a final installment in 2015.

"Frozen," the Disney animated feature, took in $66.7 million over the Friday-to-Sunday stretch, beating the $47 million estimate of BoxOffice.com.

'The Snow Queen'
Loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen," it tells the story of estranged princess sisters Anna and Elsa. The younger Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, sets out to find Elsa, who accidentally plunges the fictional Scandinavian land of Arendelle into a deep freeze and retreats to an ice palace, horrified by her destructive powers.

The film, which also features the voices of Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff, got an 84% favorable rating on RottenTomatoes.com, which aggregates critics' reviews.

"Its storytelling is fairly coherent and its gleaming dream world of snow and ice is one of the most visually captivating environments to be found in a Disney animated film," Stephen Holden wrote in the New York Times.

"Homefront," distributed by Open Road Films, opened in about 2,600 theaters with sales of $6.97 million in three days, placing fifth. The movie about a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent who clashes with a local drug lord was projected to take $7.6 million over the three-day period.

The film was written by Sylvester Stallone and features Jason Statham, James Franco and Winona Ryder.

Streetwise teen
"Black Nativity," a musical from Searchlight, took in $3.88 million over three days, placing eighth. Starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson, the movie follows a streetwise teen from Baltimore, raises by a single mother, who travels to New York to spend Christmas holiday with estranged relatives.

Opening in about 1,500 theaters, "Black Nativity" was projected to take $8.2 million. It garnered a 51% favorable rating on RottenTomatoes.com.

Among returning films, "Thor: The Dark World," a superhero sequel from Disney's Marvel studios generated $11.1 million over three days to place third. "The Best Man Holiday," about college friends reuniting after 15 years, collected $8.49 million, placing fourth for Universal Pictures.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films rose 89 percent to $190 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Year- to-date revenue is up less than 1 percent to $9.85 billion.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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