Weekend Box Office (November 21 - 23, 2014)
THIS WEEKEND Studios have cleared the decks and are fleeing the scene afraid of Katniss and the start of her third term as box office commander-in-chief. Nobody has dared to open a wide release this weekend opposite The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 which will no doubt score the biggest opening weekend of the year and the largest for any film since the franchise's last installment Catching Fire from this frame last year.
For the fourth year in a row, and a fifth to come, Lionsgate has planted its flag on mid-November with a book-based tentpole sequel. The final Twilight films through its Summit division claimed this lucrative pre-Thanksgiving time in 2011 and 2012 while Catching Fire and the two Mockingjay pics are taking the following years. This new one should play to the same fan base that propelled the first two Hunger Games movies to $152.5M and $158.1M on their respective opening weekends. Few fans are dropping out, but conversely this audience is not growing or finding new converts either.
But Mockingjay looks to open slightly lower than Fire. The more bland third film in the series is getting more lukewarm reviews which may repel the casual moviegoer just looking for popcorn entertainment. Plus its lack of energy and excitement could lead to word-of-mouth that is not as strong as that of the first two films. This may play out over the weekend leading to less repeat business during the first few days from die-hard fans. Plus there is no IMAX version this time as Interstellar has those screens locked up so a couple of million could get shaved off. Competing premium large format screens will, however, be in play so the hardcore faithful will still have a chance to pay those larger prices for the grand experience. Those who saw it in IMAX last time will still come out. But some will pay lower conventional prices.
The first Hunger Games was well-loved and had great legs building sky-high anticipation into the release of its sequel. Buzz going into Mockingjay's debut is still huge, but it seems a bit softer. Plus the marketplace is more competitive this time than last year. When Fire opened, the next nine films did $56.5M combined. For Mockingjay this weekend, the next three films alone may gross that amount. Opening in 4,151 theaters, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 might surge to about $140M starting with Thursday's 8pm pre-shows.
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The Panem gang will gobble up plenty of moviegoer attention this weekend pushing holdovers aside. With no new competition for children, Disney's hit toon Big Hero 6 should still shine having a good chance of staying put in the runner-up spot. A 35% slide would put the Baymax adventure at about $22M for a new cume of $138M.
Interstellar has been enjoying terrific buzz from audiences and has even ranked number one each day this week. Mockingjay will cut into business somewhat but a 40% drop would give Paramount roughly $17M in the third session upping the total to $122M. The global gross may even shoot past $425M thanks to strong international holds and Japan's opening this Saturday.
Universal scored a solid debut for Dumb and Dumber To last weekend, but a rough road is ahead thanks to mixed buzz and upfront turnout. A 55% tumble may result giving Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels around $16M for the session pushing the sum to $60M.
Watch the trailer for Insurgent.
LAST YEAR Breaking the November opening weekend record, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soared to a stunning $158.1M which was phenomenal, but also a bit below lofty industry expectations. The Lionsgate smash found its way to $424.7M domestic and $865M global. After two weeks on top, Thor: The Dark World tumbled 61% to second with $14.2M giving the Hemsworth brothers the top two movies in the marketplace. The Best Man Holiday fell to third with $12.5M while Vince Vaughn's flop Delivery Man bowed in fourth to $7.9M for Disney ending with a $30.7M finish. The holiday toon Free Birds rounded out the top five with $5.4M.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: November 20, 2014 at 3:20PM ET
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