By some measures, this weekend is the pinnacle of 2014's box office. Barring a major surprise, this frame should have the film with the largest opening weekend of the year, as well as its top overall earning film. Due to the vagaries of upcoming holidays, it's hard to say if it will be the biggest overall weekend of the year in terms of total box office, but it's got a chance. And it's all thanks to one film.
Weekend Forecast for November 21-23, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
November 21, 2014
The Hunger Games series gets its third entry out of four planned films this weekend, entitled “The One Where We Get To The Point”... sorry, Mockingjay, Part 1. The little exhibitions and shows of force are over, and it's on to actual civil war in Panem, as the rebel forces start to make their stand against the central government. The leading figure in the rebel camp is of course Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence for all you cave dwellers out there), who has risen to prominence after subverting two successive Hunger Games. It's come at a cost, though, with the destruction of her home region, a flight to the previously-thought-annihilated District 13, and the capture of one-third of the series' love triangle, Peeta, by government forces (and also the weird chick from the last one but who cares about her, amirite?).
Half propaganda war, half actual war, Mockingjay Part 1 is a lot of setup for the final film, and suffers a fair bit in its reviews from literally being half a film. This is the world we now live in with regards to literary adaptations, where studios have figured that they can get people to pay twice to see the conclusion of a series (I'm picturing an executive getting a lightbulb over his head and writing “x 2” on a white board somewhere). Of course, The Hunger Games is neither the first offender nor the most cynical application of this principle (I am looking your way Warner Bros.), but it does prompt questions about whether the appetite for this film will be hurt by it being just a cliffhanger film, by design. In all likelihood, the demand for Hunger Games product is simply so high that studios can name their price – that is, to make people pay double for the end of the story.
The two previous entries in this series both opened over $150 million, and there seems to be some pushback against the idea that Mockingjay, Part 1 will match that, specifically for the reason of being split up. Looking back at the most comparable series to this, Harry Potter, shows that this fear may be misplaced. The $125 million of Deathly Hallows Part 1 was not only the biggest opening of that series to date, it was almost 25% higher than any other opening weekend of the series. Weekends like this come down to matters of hype, how effective it is, and how relentless it is. Here's somewhere that I don't think that the Hunger Games series can compare, in that Harry Potter was a much bigger literary phenomenon, and after seven books, had a bigger sense of completion. The end of Potter felt like the end of an era, the end of Hunger Games feels like an “Okay, what's next?” moment. However, I think fears that Mockingjay will be unable to match the mark of the previous films are unfounded, and we should see an opening figure of $157 million.
Nothing else dares challenge the power of Jennifer Lawrence, so we're left to look at the holdovers from last weekend, which should be led in this frame by Big Hero 6. Disney's first animated Marvel film is a bona fide hit, having reached $100 million in just nine days of release. With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, it could see a significant boost to its bottom line. After $34 million last weekend, it should find second place with about $22 million.
So, Dumb and Dumber To. Kinda missed that one. In my defense, it came from a place of trust and faith in the audience that such a cynical ploy would not be successful. My bad. At any rate, it won the weekend with $36 million, a princely sum for a way-too-late sequel starring a couple of over-the-hill stars. I don't anticipate legs here, as reviews have not been kind, and it's not like the film has hidden depths that needed to be discovered by audiences. I'd look for $17 million this weekend.
Coming in just behind it is its polar opposite, Interstellar, a film that celebrates achievement and intelligence. It hit $100 million mid-week, and appears to be moderately leggy. After a bit of pushback on its science in the first weekend, this is a positive sign, and demonstrates that just being talked about is often enough to inspire some ticket buying. Interestingly, some theater chains have instituted an unlimited pass for the film, which must point at some kind of demand. I'd look for about $16 million here this weekend.
Despite the possible year-leading box office, that is essentially it for relevant films, as it's quite top heavy. Films such as Beyond the Lights, Gone Girl, St. Vincent and Fury are still out there, but earning low single-digit millions, and we're waiting for Thanksgiving and limited release expansions to fill the ranks of relevant films back up.