Box Office: 'Mockingjay' Towers Over 'Penguins,' 'Horrible Bosses 2' on Thanksgiving Eve

Courtesy of Lionsgate

'Penguins of Madagascar' is facing tough competition from holdover 'Big Hero 6'

As expected, Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is dominating the Thanksgiving box office, grossing $14.6 million as the long holiday weekend kicked off on Wednesday, for a domestic total of $157.6 million.

Placing No. 2 was new family entry Penguins of Madagascar, a spinoff of DreamWorks Animation's popular Madagascar franchise. Distributed by 20th Century Fox, the animated film earned $6.3 million from 3,654 theaters for a projected five-day debut in the $40 million range, the lower end of expectations.

Jeffrey Katzenberg's DWA needs a box-office win, although Penguins is facing stiff competition from Disney holdover Big Hero 6. Last Thanksgiving, Disney's Frozen opened to a dazzling $93.6 million over Thanksgiving.

Directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith, Penguins is voiced by John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom McGrath, Christopher Knights, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon, Peter Stormare, Ken Jeong and Annet Mahendru. The spinoff earned an A- CinemaScore.

New Line and Warner Bros.' new R-rated comedy Horrible Bosses 2 debuted to $4.3 million Wednesday, putting it on course for a five-day debut in the $30 million range, less than pre-release tracking suggested. Box-office observers caution, however, that projections could shift as the long weekend wears on. And while the comedy drew poor reviews, audiences gave it a B+ CinemaScore.

Mockingjay is easily expected to win the race overall, with a five-day gross of $75 million-plus, compared to $109 million for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a year ago. Overall holiday revenue is likely to be down from 2013, although strong holdovers, including Big Hero 6 and Interstellar, could minimize the damage (one studio has the holiday down just 3 percent).

Horrible Bosses 2 is one of the few R-rated comedies to ever dare opening on Thanksgiving and cost roughly $40 million to produce. The first Horrible Bosses opened to $28.2 million on its way to earning a stellar $209.6 million worldwide.

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Directed this time out by Sean Anders, Horrible Bosses 2 reteams most of the original cast, including Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, whose characters set out to start their own business, only to be swindled. Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz and Kevin Spacey also star.

Big Hero 6 came close to beating Horrible Bosses 2 on Wednesday, grossing $4.2 million for a domestic total of $145.3 million. That means the animated pic could likewise pull in $30 million or more for the five-day long weekend.

The other main Thanksgiving attraction is a teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The 88-second tease will begin playing Friday morning in 30 theaters across the country — before every showing of every movie (it's also set to debut online sometime on Friday).

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As awards season heats up, there's a slew of offerings for adults at the specialty box office including Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, which will be playing in roughly 700 theaters by Thanksgiving Day. Other awards contenders in the marketplace include holdovers Birdman, Foxcatcher, Whiplash and Boyhood, while The Imitation Game, starring Cumberbatch, opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles.

Birdman, Boyhood and Whiplash could also enjoy a boost this weekend after scoring key Independent Spirit Nominations (Birdman leads with six noms).

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