The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes battled its way to a projected $44 million debut this weekend at the domestic box office.
The Lionsgate prequel played in 3,776 locations across the U.S. and Canada, for a per theater average of $11,653, according to box office tracking company Comscore.
While the film easily beat the competition, it came in slightly below pre-release tracking, which had it opening in the $50 million range.
Directed by Francis Lawrence, the action adventure stars Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Jason Schwartzman, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage, Josh Andrés Rivera, and Hunter Schafer.
Set before the events of the first film in the blockbuster series, the plot centers on a young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) and his path to becoming the tyrannical leader of Panem.
Outside North America, the film earned $54.5 million in 87 international markets, for a worldwide total of $98.5 million this weekend.
That’s nearly all of the movie’s reported $100 million production budget. Yet Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes still opened much lower than the four previous films in the franchise, according to The-Numbers.com.
The Hunger Games starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen debuted domestically with $152.5 million in 2012. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened with $158 million 2013; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 debuted with $121.8 million in 2014; and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 made $102.6 million on its opening weekend in 2015.
The good news for the new film is that moviegoers will have more time to see it over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Audiences who watched the film gave it “B+” CinemaScore.
Critics were mixed. The movie received a 62 percent score on RottenTomatoes out of 172 reviews. The consensus was the thriller has an “outstanding cast and exciting story,” but a “frustrating ending.”
Elsewhere this weekend, Trolls Band Together opened domestically with $30.6 million, Comscore reported. The family adventure currently has a worldwide total of $108.1 million.
The Marvels crash landed into third place, with $10.2 million this weekend. That was a stunning 78 percent drop from its disappointing debut last weekend.
In a tie this weekend, Eli Roth’s holiday slasher Thanksgiving opened with $10.2 million.
Five Nights at Freddy’s was fifth with $3.5 million in its fourth weekend in theaters.