Weekend Wrap-Up

Box Office Sleeps as Force Awakens

By John Hamann

December 13, 2015

The real star of the Hunger Games franchise.

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It is a very close race to be the #1 film of the weekend as In The Heart of the Sea finished very close to the four-weekend-old Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. In fact, current estimates have the Jennifer Lawrence film out front, but that could change once actuals are reported tomorrow. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 earned $11.3 million in weekend four, giving it a decline compared to last weekend of 40%. Part 1’s fourth frame finished with $12.7 million and a drop of 42%.

The question now is whether this version of The Hunger Games can survive long enough to make it to $300 million. It currently has $244.5 million in the tank, so it will need some serious Christmas help to get it there. The bigger venues will be lost next weekend, but the fanbase shouldn’t be completely swallowed by The Force Awakens. Part 1 earned about $40 million between Friday, December 19th and Sunday, January 4th last year. Part 2 should earn about $35 million, and then another $15 million from the remainder of its run, which would leave it just short of the tri-century mark. It has already crossed the $300 million mark overseas, but it's still an extreme long shot to meet the $755 million worldwide that Part 1 earned.


Second spot – for now – is In the Heart of the Sea, Ron Howard’s whale movie. On paper, this likely works as a December 11th release – it has an Oscar-caliber director and a story with Moby Dick-leanings that should acquire Oscar’s attention. Unfortunately, the finished product was not embraced by critics – and rejected might be the more apt way to put it. The result is a weekend take of $11 million from 3,103 venues, giving it a lame duck average of $3,547. Heart of the Sea is only 43% fresh at RottenTomatoes, and when you look at top critics, the score goes down to 38% fresh. Because it wasn’t to be embraced over award season, Warner Bros. didn’t promote it enough, and leaves it as a kind of lame duck prior to the release of Star Wars. This boat was left at sea with no paddle – a marketing campaign that didn’t reach far enough - and the film was left to float on the ocean.

If there is good news, it would seem that audiences like it, which could help a little over the holiday season. The Cinemascore came in at a decent B+ which indicates good worth-o- mouth, but with the subdued debut weekend, there won’t be enough gas in the tank to propel it forward. There are two big problems for Warner Bros., and one of them is the budget. This film cost a massive $100 million to make, and it will be lucky to earn $50 million stateside. Problem number two is that In the Heart of the Sea didn’t have the overseas impact it was hoping to. It earned only $39 million as it debuted in dozens of territories, which means the worldwide gross is probably not going to save it. Village Roadshow, Roth Films and Imagine are going to take this one on the chin, likely losing $50 million.

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