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Movie Monday: ‘Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ Tops Cornucopia of Combatants

The odds were ever in the favor of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. And sure enough, it won the weekend’s box office crown, just as was expected. But the Hunger Games prequel suffered a few knocks along the way.

The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes earned an estimated $44 million over the weekend in North America, coasting to a relatively comfortable victory. But here’s the thing: That’s less than a third of what the original Hunger Games earned in its own opening weekend (which debuted with $152.5 million in 2012), and significantly less than any of its sequels.

Granted, the film earned more overseas—$54.5 million from 87 international markets—which brought its overall weekend tally to just under $100 million. And the film’s distributor, Lionsgate, seems to be pleased with the film’s performance. But still, Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is hardly the film on fire.

Another newbie, Trolls Band Together, sung its way to $30.6 million—a strong enough outing for the film to take second place. But like Ballad, Band Together also was overshadowed by its franchise peers. The original Trolls earned $46.5 million during its opening weekend in 2016, while the sequel Trolls World Tour—released during the opening stages of the COVID pandemic—shook up the film industry by moving to video-on-demand.

For third place, The Marvels (last weekend’s champ) is in a virtual deadlock with yet another newcomer, Thanksgiving. Both have earned $10.2 million, according to weekend estimates, which means that the actual ticket stubs might have to be tabulated before we know who earns the weekend’s bronze metal.

Not that it makes that much difference: The real takeaway here is that The Marvels, after an already-disappointing opening weekend, sunk like a superhero stone. It lost nearly 78% of its weekend-over-weekend audience, meaning that the film continues to take the MCU franchise to new fiscal lows. The Marvels has earned just $65 million over two weekends.

Five Nights at Freddy’s closed out the top five with a $3.5 million weekend. That pushes its total earnings to $132.6 million, which makes it the year’s biggest horror flick. Next Goal Wins, the weekend’s last wide-release newcomer, finished seventh with $2.5 million. That’s not quite the drubbing that the American Samoan soccer team suffered at the hands of Australia in 2002, but prognosticators expected more from director Taika Waititi’s latest.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.