‘Hunger Games’ prequel tops box office

This image released by Lionsgate shows Rachel Zegler, center, in a scene from "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes." (Lionsgate via AP)

"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" topped the North American box office in its first weekend in theaters with $44 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It was a busy weekend at the multiplex, leading into the often lucrative Thanksgiving corridor. And while there was plenty to choose from at the buffet, not everything could be a hit. Audiences had "The Marvels," which plummeted a record 78 percent in its second weekend, as well as the nationwide debuts of the family-friendly "Trolls World Tour," Taika Waititi's soccer comedy "Next Goal Wins" and the R-rated slasher "Thanksgiving" all in wide release.

"The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" is from a franchise that's been dormant for eight years and is testing the waters for a new era. Its $44 million from 3,776 locations, including 1,610 premium screens, marks a low for films carrying "The Hunger Games" in the title. The four Jennifer Lawrence films all broke $100 million in their first weekends (the high point was the first with $158 million in 2013, the low was the last one with $102.7 million in 2015).

"Trolls Band Together," the third in the animated series, opened in second place with an estimated $30.6 million in its North American debut, a total which includes profits from early sneak showings from Nov. 4.

After its rough start last weekend, the outlook for "The Marvels" keeps getting worse. It made only $10.2 million from 4,030 locations in weekend two, to take third place. Its 78 percent drop is a historic low for Marvel and modern superhero pictures. Internationally it added $19.5 million, bringing its global total to $161.3 million.

"The Marvels" was nearly bested by an R-rated Eli Roth horror, "Thanksgiving," which made an estimated $10.2 million from 3,204 locations.

  photo  This image released by Lionsgate shows Tom Blyth, left, and Rachel Zegler in a scene from "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes." (Murray Close/Lionsgate via AP)
 
 
  photo  From left to right, "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" cast members Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis, Josh Andres Rivera, Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer and Jason Schwartzman and singer Olivia Rodrigo pose together at the Los Angeles premiere of the film, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, at the TCL Chinese Theatre. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
 
 
  photo  Rachel Zegler, a cast member in "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes," walks down the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of the film, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, at the TCL Chinese Theatre. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
 
 
  photo  This image released by DreamWorks Animation shows the characters Queen Poppy voiced by Anna Kendrick, left, and Viva voiced by Camila Cabello, in a scene of the animated film "Trolls Band Together." (DreamWorks Animation via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by DreamWorks Animation shows the characters John Dory voiced by Eric André, left, Branch voiced by Justin Timberlake, center, and Spruce voiced by Daveed Diggs, in a scene of the animated film "Trolls Band Together." (DreamWorks Animation via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by DreamWorks Animation shows the characters Branch voiced by Justin Timberlake, center left, and Queen Poppy voiced by Anna Kendrick, center right, in a scene of the animated film "Trolls Band Together." (DreamWorks Animation via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Sony Pictures shows a scene from the horror film "Thanksgiving." (Pief Weyman/Sony Pictures via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Sony Pictures shows, from left, Gabriel Davenport, Jenna Warren, Tomaso Sanelli, and Addison Rae in a scene from the horror film "Thanksgiving." (Sony Pictures via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Sony Pictures shows a scene from the horror film "Thanksgiving." (Pief Weyman/Sony Pictures via AP)