Weekend Wrap-Up

Mockingjay Part 1 Catches Fire

By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis

November 23, 2014

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The previous Hunger Games projects had been marketed masterfully, fostering a sense of urgency to discover why the stories are so hyped. The opposite is true of Mockingjay Part 1. In a post-Neflix society of binge watching, consumers trained to enjoy as much of a story as they want are now being provided exactly the opposite. The latest Hunger Games movie delays gratification in a culture that is no longer tolerant of such behavior.

The same issue has undercut Peter Jackson’s attempt to stretch out The Hobbit into three films. The good news for the producers of The Hunger Games is that all of this will probably be forgotten by the time the final film arrives. Well, the good news is actually the bonus windfall of money gained by splitting Mockingjay into two projects. The bad news is that Mockingjay Part 1 may become the first film in the franchise to not earn at least $400 million domestically.

The domestic decline will be offset by the exploding international market that has already embraced the latest film. You may not realize this, but The Hunger Games was not a massive hit overseas. In fact, it earned only $285 million abroad compared to $408 million domestically. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire expanded somewhat with roughly $440 in international revenue. Mockingjay Part 1 has already grossed $152 million overseas. We are probably looking at another instance where a franchise title earns its lowest total domestically while becoming the strongest overall performer in terms of global revenue.


With regards to film quality, Mockingjay Part 1 is well received but not as popular as the first two films. It managed an A- Cinemascore and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 67%, 65% among top critics. The Hunger Games was 84%/79% with an A Cinemascore. Catching Fire is currently the best of the three with 89%/88% and an A Cinemascore. The grim nature of Mockingjay has proven a bit divisive, which is a concern for Lionsgate since the climactic story is not exactly puppies and rainbows. No matter what happens next, The Hunger Games is already the prototype for franchise building in the modern era, having become more financially successful and critically acclaimed than the last iteration, Twilight.

In a very distant second place is the Disney animated film Big Hero 6, as it takes advantage of skewing younger than Mockingjay to capture some of the overflow audience in theaters this weekend. Even though it’s a more family-friendly product, Big Hero 6 still was hit hard by the presence of Mockingjay. It declined a fairly hefty 42% to $20.1 million, and brings its domestic box office total to $135.7 million. It’s barely gotten started in international venues, but should see stellar numbers once it starts to roll out in more locations. The long Thanksgiving weekend should be a financial bonanza for this film, as families will find time to spend in theaters both on this and new arrival Penguins of Madagascar.

Although it was in fourth place when Friday numbers were released, Interstellar rallied somewhat over the weekend to finish in third place once again. Its Friday-to-Sunday total of $15.1 million represents a 47% fall from the previous frame. The Christopher Nolan science fiction think piece has now accumulated $120.7 million during its domestic run to date. More impressive, of course, is Interstellar’s overseas take of $225 million plus, which means it has worldwide earnings of almost $350 million. With a reported budget around $165 million, Paramount would probably like to see it around $500 million plus before it’s all said and done.

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