It was another quiet pre-Christmas weekend at the North American box office, as audiences wait to return to Middle Earth this Wednesday. Leading the charge was Exodus: Gods and Kings, the pricey 3D swords-and-sandals adventure from director Ridley Scott. It earned an estimated $24.5 million over its first three days. The film was the second major title this year to tackle a popular Old Testament story, although it debuted far below Noah‘s $43.7 million opening in late March.
Normally, a film with that opening and a $140 million budget would be labeled a box office disappointment. However, with Christmas holidays coming up, it is likely that the movie displays much better legs than Noah did back in the spring. (That film crawled to the $100 million mark due to mixed word-of-mouth.) However, Exodus: Gods and Kings has received similarly lukewarm responses from audiences, who gave it a B- CinemaScore.
Among CGI-infested epics that came out in early December – ones not based on a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, that is – it debuted in a similar league as 2007’s The Golden Compass‘s $25.8 million and 2010’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader ($24 million). The latter film finished with more than four times its opening; however, the 2010 Christmas season lacked a lot of blockbuster hits. This year has some bigger competition to face, though. With high-octane excitement from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it is likely that Exodus: Gods and Kings struggles to hit the century mark.
Speaking of Peter Jackson’s film, that film saw a strong opening overseas, digging up $117.6 million worth of treasure from 37 markets. In all of those countries, this final chapter opened higher than the first two installments, aided by the help of IMAX grosses.
Falling to second place after three weekends on top was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, which dipped 40% to grab another $13.2 million. That is only around $500,000 less than Catching Fire made in its fourth weekend, although that film had to compete with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Even though Mockingjay, at $277.4 million, is still running $80 million behind its predecessor, with its smaller-than-expected drops over the past three weekends, it is now performing similarly to Catching Fire. If it holds up at that film’s pace over the holidays, it should end up as 2014’s highest-grossing film in North America, defeating Guardians of the Galaxy.
Continuing its lackluster box office run was DreamWorks’ Penguins of Madagascar, which dropped 33% to earn $7.1 million. The film only has $58.8 million after 19 days. With two family-oriented movies coming out next Friday, it is unlikely that the Penguins have much more in their engine. The film should end its run with around $90 million, which is half of the total gross of the lowest-grossing Madagascar film, Escape 2 Africa. It will be another pricey disappointment for the folks at DreamWorks Animation.