'Hunger' poised to be 20th pic to crack $100 mil mark in three-day frame
Rabid fan appeal, strong word-of-mouth — and more than 4,100 Stateside locations to handle the crush — has Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games” poised to become the 20th pic in history to crack the $100 million mark at the domestic box office in a three-day frame.Expectations for the highly-anticipated inaugural adaptation in Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy have ranged widely, though most bizzers think the film will have no trouble hitting nine figures in the U.S. How much would a bow beyond that really matter? The $75 million-$80 million budgeted film, with a modest $45 million marketing spend, is already on track to become hugely profitable for Lionsgate. “Hunger Games” could score a record for a March domestic opening if it lands higher than the $116 million set by 2010′s “Alice in Wonderland.” Pic no doubt will become the highest opening for Lionsgate, easily outstripping the company’s current best of $41 million with Tyler Perry’s “Madea Goes to Jail.” Bragging rights aside, a larger-than-expected performance for “Hunger Games” could have a ripple effect benefitting international distributors and the exhibition biz. “Hunger Games” launches day-and-date this weekend via local distribs in 47 territories, including Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Mexico, Russia and the U.K. On the domestic side, “Hunger Games” is set to bow on more than 10,000 screens, with additional support from 270 domestic Imax locations, beginning midnight Thursday. The film created an advanced ticket sales frenzy: Online ticketing site Fandango reported that the film sold 10 ducats per second as of Thursday afternoon. And with more than 2,500 sold-out shows, “Hunger Games” is site’s third-highest advance ticket seller behind “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” Appeal for “Hunger Games” is strongest among female audiences and fans of the books. But the film’s appeal is only likely to broaden, as strong reviews and word-of-mouth trickle in throughout the weekend. Pic has received an 87% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes as of Thursday. Directed by Gary Ross, “Hunger Games” — based on Collins’ trilogy that’s sold more than 24 million copies — toplines Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Lionsgate has kept much of the film’s fighting sequences under wraps to fuel anticipation. In order to entice auds not familiar with the books, the studio incorporated plenty of images from the futuristic society into its marketing materials. Understandably, rival studios kept clear of Lionsgate’s weekend juggernaut, opting instead for several limited releases. Music Box’s Brit pic “The Deep Blue Sea,” starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston, bows today at 31 locations, while Sony Pictures Classics’ Indonesian crime-thriller “The Raid: Redemption” opens at 14. Nationwide holdovers will do their best to withstand “Games,” likely led by Sony-MGM’s soph-sesh player “21 Jump Street.” Last weekend, “Jump Street” bowed to a better-than-expected $36 million domestically. Pic enters the weekend with a Stateside cume approaching $50 million. Universal’s stalwart toon “The Lorax” has totaled more than $160 million so far, while Disney’s “John Carter” should near $65 million cumulatively through Sunday.