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The Box Office Catches Fire with “The Hunger Games”

March 26, 2012

By John C.


As expected, The Hunger Games broke box office records over the weekend, pulling in a whopping $152.5 million and selling out numerous showtimes all across the city.  Which puts it just behind the proud company of The Dark Knight ($158.4 million) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($169.2 million) to have the third-highest opening weekend of all time.


Put simply, The Hunger Games is one of those “believe the hype” movies that deserves all of the attention it has been getting and delivers on multiple levels.  The outstanding response on opening weekend just confirms the pop culture importance of the thrilling and emotionally powerful film, and equally interesting is the breakdown of just who was buying tickets.  According to Box Office Mojo, 56 percent of the audience was over the age of 25 and only 61 percent were female, making this a bona fide hit with more than one demographic.


Box Office in general has been up from what it was last year, and the other thing worth noting is that all of the movies that have stood atop the box office in March have been good.  For the first two weekends, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax enjoyed the top spot and has so far earned close to $200 million worldwide, which is especially impressive considering the admirable environmental messages behind the wonderful animated film.  Last weekend, the hilariously raunchy 21 Jump Street stole the crown with an opening weekend take of $36.3 million.  I think audiences are really relating to the brilliant performances and emotionally resonant story of The Hunger Games, and in general it’s always nice to see people going out on opening weekend to see movies that are actually worth their time and money.


But the immense success of a film like The Hunger Games is sharply juxtaposed by the recent fall of John Carter, which made just over $30 million on opening weekend and has domestically grossed barely twice as much in subsequent weeks.  Although the film did substantially better internationally, the sci-fi epic cost a reported $250 million to produce and Disney poured quite a bit into marketing and many audiences ultimately heeded the warning of critics and chose not to buy a ticket.  There were many things working against John Carter, including an unimpressive conversion to 3D that wasn’t worth the inflated surcharge and an overlong running time that made the story even harder to follow.  At the end of the day, this was just one of those unfortunate missed opportunities.


All of this talk is sure to get other distributors kicking their campaigns into high gear and trying to deliver the next big thing, and there are some other promising films opening throughout the rest of the year.  I think The Avengers will be a lot of fun and do quite well at the box office when it opens the first weekend of May, and the film will hopefully become the hit that distributor Disney needs to fully recover from the shortcomings of John Carter.  I’m also a big fan of the first two blockbuster films in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and am looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises on July 20th, which should continue the winning streak Warner Bros. has when it comes to delivering a mid-summer hit.  Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey should turn another tidy profit for Warner Bros. come December.


As The Hunger Games is adapted from the first book in a bestselling trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, the interesting turns that the story takes in Catching Fire and Mockingjay are set to get the big screen treatment over the next few years and should continue the winning streak at the box office.  The stunning opening weekend success just becomes even more impressive when you take into account the estimated $78 million budget for the film.  With $152.5 million already in the bank and rave reviews from many critics, I think we can all agree that The Hunger Games is a genuine hit and the biggest and one the best movies of the year, so far.

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