Weekend Wrap-Up

Catching Fire Keeps Hunger Games Franchise Hot

By John Hamann

November 24, 2013

If Caesar Flickerman were real, we'd watch a lot more TV.

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is blockbuster-big this weekend, but the question is how big?

Box office attention is always focused upon the North American opening weekend for these super-sequels, with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire being no different. For Lionsgate, this franchise is the golden jewel for the distributor that was once known only for the Saw films and Tyler Perry releases. Now, Hunger Games is to Lionsgate what Marvel is to Disney. The goal for Catching Fire was likely not to improve on the original Hunger Games opening weekend ($152.5 million) take, but to simply try and maintain the success it found in March 2012. Let’s remember that when the original debuted, the stars aligned to get The Hunger Games to $152 million. When the original film opened, the books were selling like hotcakes and Jennifer Lawrence was blossoming into a big, big star. This time around, the trilogy has been available for a while, and Lawrence has become the biggest star in the world.

Where Lionsgate needed to significantly improve on for the franchise is overseas business. The Hunger Games earned a sizzling $408 million in North America, the 14th biggest domestic earner ever. In this day and age, a $400 million domestic haul usually means the global gross should exceed a billion, but The Hunger Games pulled in only $283 million overseas, so the 14th biggest domestic earner came in at 127th on the worldwide all-time list. For example, Gravity, which opened to about $100 million less than The Hunger Games, has already outgrossed it overseas. Lionsgate needed to focus more on the foreign take instead of the opening weekend, and let Katniss and company do the talking.


And talk they did. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened Thursday night with two showings before midnight and took in $25.25 million, a solid Thursday, but not a knockout. The Twilight Saga: New Moon took in $26.3 million in comparison, but comparing Thursday grosses is not smart, as the number of screenings differs. Some Thursdays featured only midnight showings, but Catching Fire had screenings at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight. As such, the number to watch is the Friday, not the Thursday and definitely not the Friday matinees. Several sources on Friday pointed to down numbers for Catching Fire during Friday matinees, as these media outlets thought that March – during spring break – was the same as November for midday matinees.

The "Thursday preview plus Friday gross" was reported at $70.5 million, the seventh biggest single day gross ever, and only $5 million out of third place. It was also $1.5 million better than Iron Man 3. Thus, Catching Fire took in $45.3 million on Friday alone, and if it followed a similar trend to that of the original, it was destined to be the biggest November opener of all time (beating The Twilight Saga: New Moon at $142.8 million), and right on target with the original Hunger Games ($152.5 million). It didn’t go as expected, as it seems that all things Hunger Games are bigger, bigger, bigger.

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