Monday Morning Quarterback Part I

By BOP Staff

November 24, 2015

It's like she just walked in on Bradley Cooper starring in Burnt.

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Kim Hollis: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 earned $102.7 million in its debut weekend. It is the lowest opening of all The Hunger Games films. To what do you attribute the lower performance?

Ben Gruchow: The writing was on the wall with the Thursday preview screening figure of $16 million; to have the final entry in a franchise throw under its penultimate entry right off the bat, without being able to factor in word-of-mouth, is a symptom of a huge issue with audience retention. That's in context. Out of context, there's not really any problem with the number. $102 million is a fantastic opening weekend on its own terms for a film that cost somewhere between $150 and $160 million; it'll likely close with about $280 million unless it displays legs, and Lionsgate already paid for this film with the revenue from Part 1. It has to worry about the marketing spend, and that's it.

However (and this is a big however), the numbers in context are significant. Normal audience attrition doesn't explain this; neither does the source material. Mockingjay is a divisive book, and it's probably the least-liked of the series (though not for me), but this still doesn't explain the size of the drop between Part 1 and Part 2, or between Mockingjay and the first two films. The last instance I can think of where the final installment of a massively-popular multi-film series lost this much of its audience in the final installment was the Matrix series, and that's because of a tectonic shift in tone from the earlier entries. The decision to split the films may or may not have been valid from a storytelling standpoint (I'm at more of an impasse on this after seeing Part 2 than I was before), but it almost certainly contributed to this last entry feeling relatively low-stakes to anyone outside of the loyal audience.

Jason Barney: I tend to be in the camp that most of this discussion is academic. Lionsgate spent approximately $250 million on creating the total Mockingjay product. Whatever the marketing and advertising costs were for both films is really the question, but even that misses the mark a bit. It doesn't matter that this is a “weak” opening. Are some going to say that money was left on the table? Yes and I can see the argument, but again, at this point it is such a small piece of the puzzle the “soft” opening doesn't matter.




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What is impressive about Mockingjay Part 2 is that Lionsgate has virtually no price tag associated with it. The entire project has already paid for itself. Mockingjay 1 earned $337 million domestically and $755 million worldwide. Think about that.

This opening, and yes, it is below where it could have been, is nothing to be embarrassed about. Mockingjay Part 2 is not in trouble. It is doing fine. It has opened strong enough, it has the Thanksgiving week in front of it where it will take in just as much or more than it opened with, and it has a holiday season with fair to decent holds in front of it.

Is the strategy of taking a book series to the big screen working for studios? Yes. Unquestionably. Is the strategy of halving the last book the most intelligent one? I don't know if I agree with it. It probably depends on the product. All I know is that if there had just been one Mockingjay movie, I don't think its numbers would have been anywhere close to the final numbers offered here. Any side comments about weakness, series fatigue, and questionable decisions on two Mockingjay films are missing the point in my view.

Measure the total of the two Mockingjay films against the a realistic single film result. There is no question in my book. Lionsgate made a good call and made a lot of money.


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