Box Office Preview: 'Frozen' Tries to Douse 'Catching Fire' in Holiday Showdown


UPDATED: Also braving the crowded Thanksgiving marquee are musical "Black Nativity," Spike Lee's "Oldboy," action-thriller "Homefront" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"; elsewhere, "The Book Thief" and "Philomena" make major expansions.

To say there is something for everyone at the Thanksgiving box office is an understatement as Hollywood once again cooks up a mega feast for moviegoers. The Wednesday-Sunday stretch can see a huge spike in ticket sales as family and friends look for a common activity.

Expected to dominate the holiday are holdover The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Walt Disney Animation Studios' family film Frozen, which begins rolling out nationwide Tuesday night before opening everywhere Wednesday. Frozen is expected to match, or better, the $68.7 million earned by Tangled over Thanksgiving in 2010. The pic should be boosted by stellar reviews and a dearth of family product.

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale The Snow Queen, Frozen tells the story of a fearless princess (Kristen Bell) who sets off on an epic journey to find her sister, whose icy powers have caused an eternal winter. Last weekend, the 3D pic did big business when opening exclusively at Disney's El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. On Friday, it will be playing in 3,742 locations.

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Lionsgate's Catching Fire, opening north of $300 million at the global box office last weekend, is expected to remain at No. 1 with a domestic five-day gross of $80 million or better. For the three-day weekend, the sequel is poised to earn $60 million or more, while Frozen is anticipating earnings in the $50 million range.

The other films braving the long holiday stretch will do much more modest business, hoping to serve as tempting side dishes.

Fox Searchlight's holiday musical Black Nativity, targeting black moviegoers and faith-based consumers, opens in roughly 1,500 theaters Wednesday. Directed by Kasi Lemmons and based loosely on Langston Hughes' play, Black Nativity's ensemble cast is led by Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige.

The film, about a streetwise teen from Baltimore who travels to New York to spend the holidays with his estranged family, hopes to become the latest African-American film to prosper at the box office. Recent successes include Lee Daniels' The Butler, also starring Whitaker. Tracking suggests Black Nativity will gross $10 million for the five-day period.

The action-thriller Homefront, starring Jason Statham, also launching Wednesday in roughly 2,500 locations, is expecting an even more modest debut, in the $8 million to $10 million range. Distributed by Open Road films, the film features Statham as a widowed ex-DEA agent who moves to a small town with his daughter, only to have the decision blow up in his face. James Franco and Winona Ryder also star.

Spike Lee's Oldboy is taking a more measured approach in its debut, rolling out in only 583 theaters. From a script by Mark Protosevich, the remake of the cult South Korean film stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley. Looking to attract fanboys and urban audiences, Oldboy marks the final release from Peter Schlessel's FilmDistrict before Schlessel officially takes over as CEO of Focus Features on Jan. 1.

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Expanding nationwide on Wednesday is the 20th Century Fox drama The Book Thief, based on the best-selling novel by Markus Zusak about a young girl living with her foster parents in Nazi Germany, and starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nelisse and Ben Schnetzer. Fox launched Book Thief in select cities earlier this month in a bid to build word of mouth. The film has earned $1.3 million to date.

Stephen Frears' critically acclaimed Philomena also makes a major push on Wednesday after opening to solid numbers last weekend in New York and Los Angeles. The awards contender, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, expands into more than 500 theaters on Wednesday.

Philomena isn't the only Thanksgiving play by The Weinstein Co. as awards season heats up. On Friday, Harvey Weinstein's shop will launch Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom in New York and Los Angeles. The biopic stars Idris Elba as iconic civil rights leader and former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Another awards player hoping to further boost its fortunes over the holiday is holdover Nebraska, from director Alexander Payne and starring Bruce Dern.