Weekend Forecast for November 20-22, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
November 20, 2015

Once more into the fray.

It's the end of an era of sorts, as yet another franchise winds itself up this weekend, leaving its studio, but not its star, wondering exactly comes next.

The Hunger Games trilogy marks the end with its fourth movie – as is apparently tradition today – Mockingjay Part 2: All The Stuff You Actually Wanted To See. The post-apocalyptic young adult adaptation that launched a thousand new novel series, The Hunger Games has grossed $2.2 billion worldwide between three films, though notably dropping off in the last film, which consisted mostly of prelude. Now it gets to the fireworks factory, though one wonders how much damage was done – how many fans were lost – by chopping up the material into The Boring Part and The Action Part.

That's evident in the drop in opening weekends, to “just” $121 million, versus the $158 million of Catching Fire. With the revolution in full swing now, we may bring some of those missing viewers back, plus there's always that sense of closure. If we look at films that have chopped up their finales, we have a mixed bag of success and, not failure, but not always amazing-ness; Harry Potter set records, Twilight held its own, while The Hobbit basically limped home, feeling its bloat.

The good news – the finale of The Hunger Games seems to be at least an improvement on the last film in terms of quality (one imagines a lot of “box sets” of this film consisting of 1, 2 & 4), with Katniss' raid on the capital to finally take down President Snow proving to be both dramatically and visually compelling. The elaborate traps and bizarre engineered animals of the first three films start to finally have a point as they become a last line of defense against the rebels of the various outlying districts. I, personally, would go with a standing army but hey, it's your empire.

So it's the rare finale that leaves itself with something to prove. It's also the last hurrah for Lionsgate for a while, even as it contemplates remaking Twilight already. Jennifer Lawrence will of course be fine, as she's already got at least one other franchise to go to, plus enough residual fame to launch several other films. Hopefully, Lionsgate has figured out how to best invest its billions into new films. In the meantime, look for a decent uptick from the previous entry in the series, as average reviews and low enthusiasm took a piece out of it. Catching Fire will likely stand as the film's high watermark, and we should see about $133 million this weekend.

Unlike previous entries in the series, this Hunger Games actually has competition on its opening weekend, albeit slight. The Night Before targets 20 and 30 somethings with a drug-fueled holiday-themed movie, starring Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a trio that have celebrated Christmas Eve as a night for excess of, well, everything. This is in part done as a bit of therapy for Gordon-Levitt's character, who lost his parents near Christmas, but also just an excuse to indulge their worst instincts. As the trio grows a bit old for this and starts to settle down, it's time for one last hurrah and the search for The Greatest Christmas Bacchanalia Ever.

Ads for the film are heavy on the Rogen, emphasizing the culture clash between his obvious Jewishness and his Catholic fiancee (played by Jillian Bell, last seen as the hilariously cynical antagonist in 22 Jump Street), with other supporting roles going to Lizzy Caplan, Helene Yorke, Mindy Kaling, Michael Shannon, James Franco and Miley Cyrus (the latter two as themselves). It's a film much in the spirit of Superbad and Pineapple Express, but is catering to an audience that's probably much less interested in that kind of film than it used to be.

It would have been interesting to see how well The Interview actually would have done last year as a comparison, but we can look back to This Is The End, which took apocalyptic humor to a $21 million opening weekend in the summer of 2013. The hook for this film isn't as good and the reviews not as glowing, so I don't see this competing with that number. It's not impossible to see it having a deep run through Christmas if the word-of-mouth is there, however, and a start of $16 million might be enough to get it there.

Lastly, we have Secret In Their Eyes, a remake of an Argentinean film from a few years back that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It stars Julia Roberts as an FBI agent whose daughter goes missing. Along with a fellow agent (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a District Attorney (Nicole Kidman), she investigates the disappearance but finds only dead ends. After sitting cold for 13 years, a new lead opens the case and they work to uncover the horrifying secret behind why she's been missing.

If this sounds a bit generic for a Hollywood thriller with stars of this significance, well, you're not wrong. That's in part because the original film was filled with meaning due to its connections to Argentina's Dirty War in the '70s, which saw the abduction and murder of thousands of dissidents during the 1970s. Obviously, that connection is lacking for a US-based film, so it remains to be seen what reasonable change they've made to the film to justify it. The answer from the reviews seems to be that they haven't managed to, whatever it is, and this remake is rather pointless and a slog.

The last remaining hope here is star power, but the film itself seems to downplay that by dressing its stars down. That may not even be the issue, as its biggest star hasn't been responsible for a big hit in ages. The closest thing would be 2010's Eat Pray Love, with a respectable $80 million. That, of course, was a hopeful, positive film and this is basically the opposite of that. I'd look for just $7 million here.

Spectre loses its top spot at the box office after two weeks and about $140 million, but there's little to feel bad about, as it's within spitting distance of passing every other Bond film besides Skyfall. Worldwide box office is also solid, putting it at nearly $600 million already. The reported $245 million budget (Why? How?) presents some challenges relative to other Bond films, but we're still into hugely positive territory. It should bring in about $18 million this weekend.

The Peanuts Movie had a solid hold with $24 million and is set to cross the $100 million milestone this weekend. The market is there for a sequel if it's wanted, but I expect this is a case where one and done is a more prudent course of action. A lot of this response to the film is that they haven't abused the memory of the strip and the specials, and a whole series runs the risk of digging into crasser material. Give it $14 million this frame.