Weekend Wrap-Up

Book vs Book vs Book – Hunger Games Eviscerated, by Steve Harvey and Nichol

By John Hamann

April 22, 2012

We think this movie's message is clear. Reading is sexy.

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Think Like A Man wasn't the only female-driven film to trounce The Hunger Games. Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling also got in the way, as The Lucky One was just that. The film, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, earned a not bad $22.8 million from a far too wide venue count of 3,155. The Lucky One had a venue average of $7,228. Does this mean that Zac Efron is back? No, it just means another Nicholas Sparks book has been turned into a movie, although this one did a little bit better than the average.

Nicholas Sparks is his own brand at the movies. His novels sell in the millions, and his core audience turns out for the movies based on his books, some of them multiple times. The first of them was 1999's Message in a Bottle, which featured Kevin Costner and Robin Wright. It had a stellar opening weekend of $16.8 million and went on to take in $52.9 million domestically. Its worldwide total was $118.9 million. It did have a budget of $80 million, so it did require some work to get to profitability. In fact, we'd have to wait for the turn of the century for Sparks to be a big deal.

Moving into the 2000s, Sparks had A Walk to Remember released in 2002. It starred Mandy Moore and earned an okay $41.2 million domestically, but that was against a budget of only $12 million. Over its first three weekends, A Walk to Remember had an average drop of 31% - despite being only 27% fresh at RottenTomatoes – and finished with an opening-to-total multiplier of 3.4. Then, The Notebook came in 2004, and it changed the careers of Sparks, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The Notebook opened to only $13.5 million, good for only fourth place in its frame, but was still in good position considering the $29 million production budget. Following the opening, The Notebook proved to be excellent counter-programming against Spider-Man 2 (it dropped 23%), against Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (it fell 12%), and against I, Robot (it dropped 14%). The Notebook turned a $13.5 million open into a $81 million domestic gross, or six times the opening weekend. Sparks proved that his books-turned-movies didn't need big stars to make them go.


Efron also proves that theory. The kid from High School Musical hasn't had a hit since 2009's 17 Again, and even that one wasn't all that. The body switching film earned $64 million for Warner Bros., well off the $90.6 million that High School Musical 3 earned in 2008. 2009's Me and Orson Welles was an out and out flop, barely earning $1 million, and Charlie St. Cloud didn't blow the cover off the baseball either, earning $31 million in 2010. In 2011, he was lumped in with other "B-listers with a pulse" for the ultra-forgettable New Year's Eve, which brings us to this weekend. This was the perfect choice for Efron, as this is a Sparks film, so success was virtually guaranteed, at least on a small scale. The Lucky One cost Warner Bros. only $25 million to make, so Efron's risk was minimal at best. Unfortunately, due to an agent's good choice, we are going to be stuck with this guy for years to come. Just look at Channing Tatum now. Hopefully a Jump Street sequel doesn't use Zac Efron.

That means The Hunger Games falls to third, as its streak of four consecutive weekend wins and 28 consecutive daily wins comes to an end. Despite dropping down, things aren't all bad for the Jennifer Lawrence-driven film, as The Hunger Games still earns $14.5 million, dropping a reasonable 31%. Let's remember that The Lucky One could be considered strong competition for The Hunger Games audience – both are based on books, and both are targeted largely at females. Despite the Lionsgate behemoth having earned $356.9 million domestically, The Hunger Games held even better than last weekend when it fell 36%, so it's obvious that this one is getting either repeat business, or is expanding its audience to older viewers. The Hunger Games still has an outside chance at $400 million, but will have to hold strongly again next weekend before facing off against The Avengers the following weekend (have you seen the reviews? Goodbye box office records).

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