‘Hunger Games’ prequel wins box office battle royale

The prequel to “The Hunger Games” was offered as a tribute to the weekend box office and was crowned the winner.

Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” grossed $44 million in North America in its opening weekend, according to estimates by measurement firm Comscore.

The YA novel-turned-movie easily defeated its biggest competition, Universal Pictures’ “Trolls Band Together.” The animated jukebox musical grossed $30.6 million in its wide release, bringing its domestic total to $31.77 million.

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” fell short of initial box office projections of $45 million to $60 million.

Internationally, the action film grossed $54.5 million, according to studio estimates, for a worldwide total of $98.5 million.

The film far underperformed its “Hunger Games” predecessors on opening weekends in the United States. The original film “The Hunger Games” grossed $152.5 million upon its release in 2012; 2013’s “Catching Fire” earned $158 million in its debut; 2014’s “Mockingjay — Part 1” grossed $121.9 million its opening weekend; and 2015’s “Mockingjay – Part 2” debuted with $102.7 million.

Rounding out the domestic box office this weekend were Disney’s “The Marvels,” which grossed $10.2 million in its second release for a North American total of $65 million; TriStar Pictures’ horror film “Thanksgiving” grossed $10.2 million in its opening weekend; and Universal Pictures’ “Five Nights at Freddy’s” grossed $3.5 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its North American cumulative total to $132.6 million.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” explores the formative young adult years of the future tyrannical president of Panem Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) and his relationship with Lucy Gray (Rachel Zegler). , the District 12 girls’ tribute to the Tenth Hunger Games (the same district Katniss Everdeen represents many years later). The film also stars Hunter Schafer, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage and Jason Schwartzman.

The PG-13 book adaptation earned a lukewarm 61% critic score and an impressive 90% audience score on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. It earned a B+ grade from audiences surveyed by CinemaScore.

“It feels like a hastily tacked-on sequel, with a distinctly different look, set in retro-industrial Appalachia District 12, and characters with completely different psychological mindsets,” writes the Tribune News Service film critic. Katie Walsh.

“Zegler cements his charm in a role that plays to his vocal strengths; his bluegrass performances are incredibly engaging,” Walsh continues. “There are so many things that work in ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ that it’s unfortunate that it’s all packed into one overlong movie.”

Opening next week are Focus Features’ “The Holdovers,” Disney’s “Wish” and Columbia Pictures and Apple’s “Napoleon.”

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