LOS ANGELES (AP) — "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" continues to dominate the domestic box office, but awards season hopefuls "Wild" and "The Imitation Game" proved their might with impressive limited release showings on this sleepy post-Thanksgiving weekend.
In its third weekend in release, "Mockingjay - Part 1" earned an estimated $21.6 million. Lionsgate's penultimate chapter in the massively successful franchise has now earned $257.7 million domestically, according to studio estimates Sunday.
And yet, even though "Mockingjay - Part 1" is on track to become the second-highest grossing movie of the year by mid-week, it's still about $78 million shy of where the previous installment, "Catching Fire," was in its third weekend just last year.
For Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office tracker Rentrak, this deficit is only concerning for the overall box office, which is down 4.6 percent for the year. "We are nearing the finish line for 2014 and that is a lot of ground to make up, but luckily we have some big movies on the way," he says of "Into the Woods," ''Exodus: Gods and Kings," ''Annie," ''Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" and "Unbroken."
While audiences wait for that fresh fare, some still turned out to catch up with the leftovers. DreamWorks Animation's "Penguins of Madagascar" took second place with $11.1 million in its second weekend, while the raunchy Warner Bros. comedy "Horrible Bosses 2" claimed third place with $8.6 million. The fourth and fifth place spots went to Disney's animated "Big Hero 6" and Paramount's space odyssey "Interstellar," which earned $8.13 million and $8.0 million respectively.
"The Pyramid," Fox's R-rated horror pic, just barely cracked the top 10 in its debut weekend with a less-than-stellar $1.35 million from 589 locations.
"It's one of those status quo, boring weekends. But it's not boring in the specialized or indie world," Dergarabedian said. "For me that's where the excitement is."
"Wild," a Fox Searchlight release starring Reese Witherspoon, opened in 21 theaters Wednesday, earning an estimated $630,000 over three days for a strong $30,000 per-theater average. The Oscar-winning actress has been getting lots of buzz for her soul-searching turn in the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's best seller.
The biggest success story of the weekend is The Weinstein Company's Alan Turing biopic "The Imitation Game," which took in an estimated $402,000 from eight locations for a stunning $50,250 per-theater average. Star Benedict Cumberbatch is also expected to be a major contender on the awards circuit this season.
As Dergarabedian puts it: "People wanted to see what the fuss was about and went out in pretty big numbers."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1," $21.6 million ($31.6 million international).
2. "Penguins of Madagascar," $11.1 million ($23.5 million international).
3. "Horrible Bosses 2," $8.6 million ($7.1 million international).
4. "Big Hero 6," $8.13 million ($4 million international).
5. "Interstellar," $8 million ($22.8 million international).
6. "Dumb and Dumber To," $4.17 million ($3.7 million international).
7. "The Theory of Everything," $2.67 million ($282,000 international).
8. "Gone Girl," $1.5 million.
9. "The Pyramid," $1.35 million ($3.8 million international).
10. "Birdman," $1.15 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Rentrak:
1. "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1," $31.6 million.
2. "Fleet of Time," $29 million.
3. "Penguins of Madagascar," $23.5 million.
4. "Exodus: Gods and Kings," $23 million.
5. "Interstellar," $22.8 million.
6. "Paddington," $13 million.
7. "The Crossing," $8.1 million.
8. "Horrible Bosses 2," $7.1 million.
9. "Women Who Flirt," $5 million.
10. "Big Hero 6," $4 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ldbahr.