‘Hunger Games’ Tops ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ at Box Office

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“The Hunger Games” finale continued its dominance at the box office, beating the debut of “In the Heart of the Sea,” director Ron Howard’s film about the real-life whaling story behind “Moby-Dick.”

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” generated $11.3 million in its fourth week at the top, Rentrak Corp. said Sunday in a statement. Warner Bros.’ “In the Heart of the Sea,” starring Chris Hemsworth, posted sales of $11 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters. “The Big Short,” about the 2008 financial crisis, opened in limited release.

With such a debut, Howard’s effects-heavy whale tale will struggle to recoup production costs, estimated at $100 million by Imdb.com, and the many millions more spent to market the picture. That’s especially true given the competition that looms with next weekend’s worldwide release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“It’s just another unfortunate victim of a very slow market,” said Shawn Robbins, a senior analyst at Boxoffice.com, in a telephone interview. “It’s another side effect of audiences waiting for not just ‘Star Wars’ but the Christmas movies in general.”

Whaling Yarn

Based on a true story, “In the Heart of the Sea” is set in the winter of 1820, when a New England whaling ship called the Essex is hit by a huge whale that seems to be seeking revenge. Australian actor Hemsworth plays Owen Chase, the first mate who survives the assault. The tale helped inspire the 1851 Herman Melville classic, “Moby-Dick.”

The film scored 46 percent positive reviews, according to aggregator Rottentomatoes.com. It was forecast to generate $14.5 million, the estimate of BoxOffice.com.

While the results were “under expectations,” the movie has a chance to pick up momentum in coming weeks, Robbins said. “It won’t be what they were hoping for, but it’s not necessarily going to fall off a cliff either.”

“The Big Short,” based on the non-fiction bestseller of the same name by author and Bloomberg View columnist Michael Lewis, opened in eight locations and took in $720,000.

The movie, about investors who made lucrative bets when the housing bubble burst, stars Christian Bale and Brad Pitt. It garnered four Golden Globe nominations on Dec.10 for Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures. The film goes nationwide on Dec. 23.

“Mockingjay Part 2,” from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., has generated $244.5 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters since its release.

“The Good Dinosaur,” from Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar division, placed third this week with $10.5 million.

Weekend sales for the top 10 films fell 11 percent to $66 million from a year earlier, Rentrak said. Sales for the year to date have increased 4.3 percent to $10.1 billion.

The following table has U.S. box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on actual ticket sales for Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 and estimates for Sunday.

                   Rev.    Pct.             Avg./    Total
Movie             (mln)    Chg. Theaters  Theater    (mln)  Wks
================================================================
1 Mockingjay Pa    11.3    -40    3,651    3,095    244.5    4
2 In The Heart     11.0     --    3,103    3,547     11.0    1
3 Good Dinosaur    10.5    -31    3,606    2,911     89.7    3
4 Creed            10.1    -32    3,502    2,890     79.3    3
5 Krampus           8.0    -51    2,919    2,745     28.2    2
6 Spectre           4.0    -28    2,640    1,515    190.8    6
7 Night Before      3.9    -22    2,674    1,458     38.2    4
8 Peanuts Movie     2.7    -26    2,653      999    125.0    6
9 Spotlight         2.5    -10    1,089    2,304     20.3    6
10 Brooklyn         2.0    -19      947    2,086     14.3    6

Top 10 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $66.0 $73.8 -10.6

Year-to-date Revenue

2015 2014 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $10,055 $9,643 4.3 Source: Rentrak Corp.
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