Friday Box Office Analysis
by Tim Briody
November 23, 2013

I had no idea they were in The Great Gatsby.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The second movie in the Hunger Games franchise finally arrived in theaters Friday and was looking to beat the $67.2 million Friday and $152 million opening weekend earned by the first film. On paper, this seems a given. Sequels, especially those of well received films, tend to open higher than the previous film. As we like to say around here, the quality of the previous film is what sells the tickets to the sequel. While reviews are solid and the advertising and marketing tie-ins are ever present, there’s the feeling that Catching Fire does not have the same buzz that The Hunger Games did. Would that reflect in the box office? The answer, after one day, might be yes.

What we have is a $70.5 million Friday for Catching Fire, with $25.2 million of that coming from late Thursday/midnight showings. Looking back at the Hunger Games performance from March 2012, of its opening day, $19.7 million of its opening day box office was earned in sneaks. Remove the midnights from these numbers and The Hunger Games earned $47.5 million while Catching Fire’s adjusted Friday is $45.3 million. So while we’ve got a 5% increase in the total box office, with the midnight numbers removed (we do this to better estimate the remainder of the weekend, and then add it back in at the end), Catching Fire is actually down 4.6% in terms of true Friday earnings.

While puzzling, there is no real cause for panic just yet after just one day of box office. The Hunger Games had a weekend multiplier of 2.26 counting the midnight dollars. Should Catching Fire come in with similar numbers, it’s a weekend of $159.3 million, which places it as the fifth largest opening of all time, just ahead of The Dark Knight and just behind The Dark Knight Rises. However, if you remove the midnight showings from the figures, The Hunger Games had a weekend multiplier of 2.8. Giving Catching Fire the same treatment results in a $152 million weekend, essentially tied with The Hunger Games. The math here might be a little confusing, but we’ve established the likely landing point for Catching Fire and it sure is strange that this is the case. Barring a dramatic increase in the weekend multiplier, Catching Fire was unable to expand its audience much beyond those who saw The Hunger Games.

We did see a similar effect earlier this year with Star Trek: Into Darkness and I wonder if we’ve reached the point with A-list sequels where the second time around just isn’t as special as the first. Or maybe the release date is a factor and some are waiting for the holiday week to see Catching Fire. Let’s just say that we didn’t quite expect The Hunger Games franchise to pull a Twilight. Looking ahead to next weekend, I do expect it to hold better than the 62% decline The Hunger Games witnessed, which means while Catching Fire could very well be ahead of the 10-day total of The Hunger Games at the same point ($248.4 million), though it’s not likely to match the total domestic gross of $407.9 million.

Still, the biggest November opening in box office history is nothing to sneeze at, not to mention that Catching Fire is outperforming The Hunger Games in overseas markets. It’s pulling in an A CinemaScore with audiences and Lionsgate will more than have made back its production budget by the time the weekend is over. With Mockingjay already split into two movies to be released in 2014 and 2015, the franchise is still going strong, just not expanding as would be expected. I’m giving Catching Fire a weekend of $156.5 million.

Delivery Man

Oh, right, there was another movie released this weekend. [bp:967_]Vince Vaughn[/bp]’s comedy Delivery Man could only manage $2.7 million on Friday. Between this and The Internship, he’s not really having a good year. Let’s call it $7.5 million and hope we never have to speak of it again.