Weekend Forecast for November 22-24, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
November 22, 2013
The Holiday movie season, 2013 edition, has underwhelmed in a number of ways. This is in large part due to Hollywood avoiding it to some degree or not putting out their best product. Whether this is good strategy or not is best left to time travelers, but the reason for this arrives this weekend with what is likely to be the largest opening weekend of the year.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire may not technically be the only game in town this weekend, but it might as well be for all intents and purposes. The sequel to last year's adaptation of the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy (but movie quadrilogy, sigh), it has big shoes to fill. That was, if not a surprise in being a hit, perhaps a bit of a surprise in the scale of it, at a $150 million opening and $400 million domestic (and one of the few domestic hits that disappointed internationally, relative to those numbers). It stands out amongst a vast graveyard of recent attempted literary adaptations as studios cast about wildly trying to recreate the Harry Potter and/or Twilight phenomenon – and who would blame them? Billions in revenue from a pre-made franchise is nothing to sniff at.
A brief recap if you've been in a coma: set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian (and there any post-apocalyptic uptopias?) North America, it posits a world in which a winner-take-all to-the-death competition among children from different regions is held in order to keep the lower classes in line after a long ago rebellion. The implied message: if you step out, we'll do this on a larger scale. In Catching Fire, that stepping out starts to happen, and we get much more into the political implications of the events of the first fame. As the first co-winners of the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta's status makes them important ... and dangerous figures – flashpoints of a potential rebellion. In order to rid them and their influence, the Capitol region decides to make the next Games an all-star edition, bringing back all former winners – much in the same way that Donald Trump keeps bringing back Gary Busey.
Widely considered by fans to be the best book of the series, this films is hoping to become the Empire Strikes Back of the movie series – both delving further into the world created in the first story and taking a darker tone. All the principals who survived the first film return, which of course includes everybody's crush (boy and girl versions) Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, etc. etc. and adding Philip Seymour Hoffman as a new games director, lending his easy slimy evil vibe to the proceedings. The combination of action and political intrigue doesn't seem like it should spell blockbuster on paper, but there's little arguing with a phenomenon.
On that note, the Hunger Games fervor does not seem to be as fervent this time around, at least anecdotally speaking. Perhaps that can be explained by familiarity with the franchise, as not everything has to be pressed and sold quite so hard to a public that's already on board. It's also in some ways kind of a bleak and downer franchise, so Potter-style fandom doesn't make quite as much sense. One sizable advantage working in the series' favor – it has a decidedly larger adult group of fans than a lot of other franchises, something that Potter struggled with in breaking records. It also hasn't inspired legions of critics like the Twilight series, a group of films that was as divisive as it was popular. Here, you can imagine people willingly checking things out just to see what the fuss is about, instead of the oaths sworn to never see a second of Twilight. With these factors in mind, I would look for a significant increase over last year's opening weekend, to approximately $180 million – an astounding figure to just throw around casually, but here we are.