How Big Will The Hunger Games Be? (Box Office Analysis)
03.23.12 by Chris
In The Hunger Games, teenage Tributes battle each for sport but this weekend the highly anticipate movie is seeking to do battle with some of Hollywood's biggest franchises for box office records.
Going into this weekend, we already knew The Hunger Games was going to be big but the question was how big. Well, if midnight numbers are any indication — very big.
The movie, based on the young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, grossed $19.4M at midnight screenings. Now, that's not Twilight numbers but it's a very impressive figure. Hunger Games broke the non-sequel midnight record and is 7th on the list of the top 10 midnight openings (behind three Harry Potter movies and three Twilight installments). Guess who's number eight on the list? The Dark Knight, which only grossed $18.5M at midnight screenings but went on to gross $158M in its first weekend in 2008, then a record.
Hunger Games earns special recognition because in fact it's not a sequel (the other nine in the top 10 midnight grosses are sequels) and the fact that it opened in March, a month not necessary considered a busy time at the box office — especially compared to summer or the holiday season.
So what opening numbers will Hunger Games end the weekend with?
As the release date got closer and closer, Hollywood analysts kept readjusting their predictions. First it was around $90M, and then $120M. Now, some are expecting the movie to debut in the neighborhood of $150M.
While Twilight can brag about its midnight numbers, the franchise has a problem when it comes to front-end business. While Breaking Dawn - Part 1 grossed $71M on its opening day ($30.3M at midnight screenings), the movie dropped 44 percent by Saturday, proving while the movie opened big it left a lot of seats empty on Saturday and Sunday. Note that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which holds the opening weekend crown ($169M), dropped 53 percent from Friday to Saturday. While Hunger Games didn't have a Twilight-size opening, the odds are the movie's audience won't drop off as much as Twilight or Harry Potter. Dark Knight only dropped off 29 percent from Friday to Saturday.
Hunger Games has a theater count of 4,137, the 15th widest release ever (Eclipse holds the record for the widest release with 4,468), so the numbers are there for Hunger Games to finish the weekend well north of $120M. One record that is all but doomed is the biggest non-sequel opening weekend, currently held by Alice in Wonderland ($116M).
Even as this post is being written, THR reports Hunger Games has grossed $40M at matinee screenings, impressive given that it's not summer, when students across the country are out of school. Also in Hunger Games's favor? People actually like the movie. Unlike Twilight, reviews for Hunger Games have been overwhelming positive. The movie currently has a 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (Breaking Dawn on the other hand had a rating of just 25%), meaning moviegoers outside the core fanbase might be more inclined to buy a ticket.
While The Hunger Games stands out because it's the first entry of a franchise, the fact that it's not a sequel can work against it. Because it doesn't yet have the brand recognition like Twilight, (the franchise is still an unknown brand to those not familiar with the book series), anticipation could tamper off by Sunday and the movie could end the weekend in the still respectable $120M range. So Twilight and Harry Potter records might be safe for now but all bets are off when Catching Fire hits theaters in 2013.
Don't forget to watch Reelz's The Hunger Games: Inside the Arena special today at 6 PM ET / 3 PM PT with encore airings Saturday at 11:30 AM ET / 8:30 AM PT and 7:30 PM ET / 4:30 PM PT. The special includes interviews with the cast of The Hunger Games. ReelzChannel is on DirecTV channel 238, Dish Network channel 299, and available on your cable or satellite system.