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Monday Morning Mixer: 'Fire' burns despite 'Frozen' climes

Posted Monday, December 2, 2013 at 11:38 AM Central

by John Couture

Thanksgiving is traditionally a holiday in which the box office stuffs itself with the latest family offering and all others are wise to steer clear. This year was no exception, but The Hunger Games: Catching Fire proved that it was no one-week wonder and the gauntlet has officially been dropped.

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games during this extended holiday weekend as Hollywood lost a bright star long before his time and we will feel his loss for many years.

It's going to be a tough MMM to write this morning, but it has to be done. Sit back and get ready for an emotional roller-coaster. This was the weekend that was, good and bad.

Box Office 411

First, the high note and that would be the phenomenal staying power of but Catching Fire that we hinted at in the headline. We talked about a lot of different scenarios last week in terms of this film's second weekend, but I don't think we ever imagined a weekend that would flirt with $75 million.

One thing that I failed to consider was the totality of the five day holiday weekend when figuring in numbers for the 10 day forecast. With the extra holiday time thrown in, Catching Fire easily surpassed my estimate of a 10 day total of $260 million, earning a whopping $296 million so far. Just how impressive is this tally? Well, it's good enough for third place all-time in terms of opening 10 day totals, behind only The Avengers' $373 million and The Dark Knight's $314 million.

More importantly for today's discussion, Catching Fire's mark is almost $50 million more than The Hunger Games. Barring a catastrophic event, Catching Fire is guaranteed to top $400 million and to best The Hunger Games' $408 million box office total. The real question is where it will run out of steam. At this point, I figure that the magical number will be somewhere in the $450 million range, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it best Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace's $474 million, good enough for fifth best all-time.

Of course, if that happens then 2015 really becomes interesting as the last Hunger Games movie is scheduled to open up within weeks of Star Wars: Episode VII. You want to talk about some major fireworks at the box office. I can hardly wait.

All of this phenomenal box office performance by Catching Fire shouldn't overshadow (but probably does) the stunning numbers that Frozen put up this weekend. It earned a total of $66.7 million in the three day frame and $93.3 million over the entire holiday weekend.

Those numbers are pretty impressive on their own as they represent a new record for a film opening during the five day Thanksgiving holiday. It now boasts a better opening than heavy hitters Toy Story 2 and Tangled over the same frame. Frozen continues Disney Animation's string of hits, both massive like Wreck-It Ralph and modest like Planes.

Needless to say, if Frozen continues to maintain this level of business, it will easily become the top money-earner over at Disney Animation. This bodes well for the studio moving forward, especially with no Pixar movies scheduled to be released in 2014.

The rest of the box office was a mess, especially for newcomers as the top two films accounted for just over 70% of the top 15 films' $201 million at the box office during the three-day frame. That's a massive percentage and consistent with last weekend's performance by Catching Fire and the effect it had on other films that opened against it.

This weekend, the losers were Homefront ($9.8 million), Black Nativity ($5 million), Philomena ($4.8 million) and Oldboy ($0.9 million). None of these films look to make much of a splash at the box office in the coming weeks as competition becomes more fierce.

Quick Hitters

It is with heavy hearts that we must bid farewell to another young Hollywood actor. Paul Walker, he of tremendous Fast and Furious met his demise in the most ironic way on Saturday. The actor whose most successful films feature him as part-time cop, full-time car enthusiast Brian O'Conner died when the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT he was in lost control and slammed into a light pole.

At the time of his death, Paul was filming The Fast and the Furious 7 and the future of that film and the franchise is now up in the air. On the one hand, finishing the film would be a fitting tribute for the actor who literally grew up in the franchise. Of course, on the other hand, it will be difficult for fans to watch Paul speeding in a fast car and knowing how his life came to a tragic end.

One thing is for certain, at age 40, Paul left us way too soon and his absence will be felt in Hollywood for years to come. It's a sad tale that reverberates every so often from James Dean to River Phoenix to Heath Ledger to Brittany Murphy to finally Paul Walker. Rest in Peace, Paul. We will remember you by the body of work that you left behind.

While I certainly don't want to take anything away from this weekend's tragedy, I just don't think it's right to send you off on such a downer. This nugget is just too good not to share with you. In support of the upcoming Anchorman 2, Will Ferrell trotted out the movie's trademark character Ron Burgandy to actually anchor a live local news program in North Dakota.

Major props to Ron's co-anchor who manages to keep it together for the most part. Well, that's all for today. Believe it or not, it's December already so make sure you hug a loved one and until next week, Mix Well!