Friday Box Office Analysis

By Tim Briody

March 24, 2012

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, the first true event film of 2012, is finally here. Getting right down to brass tacks, it earned $68.3 million on Friday with $19.7 million of that coming via midnight showings. This is largely unprecedented for any franchise, much less a new one. It's the sort of behavior you'd expect from a sequel, not the first entry in an "unproven" series.

To demonstrate, let's compare The Hunger Games to the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises. Twilight, released in November 2008 (which already feels like a much different era), had an opening day of $35 million, with $7 million of that attributed to midnight showings. Given that The Hunger Games is frequently compared to Twilight, the 2012 film's $68.3 million opening day is all the more remarkable when you consider that it effectively matched Twilight's entire opening weekend total of $69.6 million in 24 hours. And we named Twilight's opening weekend one of the top 12 film industry stories of 2008.

Fast forward to last November when Breaking Dawn - Part 1 earned $71.6 million on opening day with $30.3 million from midnight screenings. New Moon and Eclipse opened to $72.7 million and $68.5 million respectively. The Hunger Games' debut is already reaching those upper echelons of domestic box office with its $68.3 million Friday.

If we compare The Hunger Games to another beloved franchise, last summer's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the results are shocking. The final film of that series started with a record $91.1 million, with $43.5 million of that earned in midnight showings. Thus, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 earned $47.6 million in its first day in theaters not including the midnight sneaks. That was the eighth and final chapter in the most beloved new story in our lifetime. The Hunger Games earned $48.6 million on its first day in theaters (not including midnight sneaks) for its FIRST film. Anyone who said they saw The Hunger Games instantly matching Harry Potter is lying.

Tracking off the charts, a $100 million opening for The Hunger Games was pretty much a forgone conclusion. The ceiling was tougher to call, with numbers anywhere from $120 to $150 million being tossed around. It's hugely unlikely, but Deathly Hallows Part 2's opening weekend record of $169.1 million is in play if everything breaks just the right way. I expect the $24 million gap in midnight sneaks to be too large to overcome, however.

An important statistic of note is that The Hunger Games has had the best opening day for a non-sequel with that $68.3 million total. It destroys the previous record of $40.8 million set by Alice in Wonderland in 2010. That is a whopping 67% increase over the old record. To put that in perspective, even without the $19.7 million in midnight showings, The Hunger Games still would have broken the standing record by almost $8 million.

The Hunger Games has rapidly become a major cultural phenomenon and the young adult book series has also garnered legions of adult fans (unlike a certain series about vampires and werewolves). We're seeing that audience turn out for the biggest movie event of 2012. With an A CinemaScore, The Hunger Games has positive word-of-mouth among the devoted, which is also bringing in viewers that have not even read the source material. This is the sort of perfect storm that leads to breaking box office records, and things like this are what make the box office so much fun to track. It's not going to take down the all-time opening weekend record of Deathly Hallows Part 2, but it's sure going to make a run at it. The Hunger Games looks to come in with a weekend of $141.2 million.


Projected Estimates for the Top Ten (Three-Day)
Estimated Gross
1 The Hunger Games 141.2
2 21 Jump Street 17.1
3 The Lorax 10.2
4 John Carter 4.7
5 Project X 1.6
6 Act of Valor 1.8
7 October Baby 1.7
8 A Thousand Words 1.6
9 Safe House 1.3
10 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 1.0



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