Box Office: ‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ Scores Year’s Biggest Opening With $123 Million

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” easily topped “Transformers: Age of Extinction” to secure the year’s biggest domestic opening weekend.

The latest installment in the futuristic franchise earned $123 million across 4,151 locations, besting “Transformers'” $100 million debut from last summer. It’s a massive number — only 14 films in history have earned more — but it’s still a low point for the blockbuster series by a significant margin.

“The Hunger Games” racked up $152.5 million when it launched in 2012, while “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” snagged $158.1 when it bowed in 2013.

Heading into the weekend, Lionsgate, the company behind the series, said it expected an opening between $130 million and $150 million, but most analysts pegged a debut of $150 million or more. Lionsgate argued that the projections are difficult to make when dealing with a sequel with this level of expectation and name recognition.

“When you look at the massive number we’re dealing with there’s always going to be a variance,” said David Spitz, executive vice president of distribution at Lionsgate.

“It was a tremendous weekend,” he added. “The fifteenth largest in history. It shows the strength of this franchise.”

Globally the film earned $275 million. Its international haul of $152 million from 85 foreign markets bests that of “Catching Fire” by 4%. Lionsgate touted the foreign growth in a release announcing its weekend estimates, noting that its debut figures were a 5% to 19% improvement in most major overseas markets.

“This is another round of North America isn’t the world,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “If the overseas numbers stay strong it will more than compensate for any dip that happens in North America.”

Some of the discrepancy on the domestic front may be attributed to a lack of Imax screens. The wide screen format has committed to showing “Interstellar” until “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” debuts on Dec. 17. Imax added $10.6 million to the first “Hunger Games'” debut and $12.6 million to the second chapter’s opening.

It could also be that after two installments in as many years, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” didn’t feel as fresh as it once did.

The difficulty for “The Hunger Games” is that it has now entered the pantheon of elite franchises, sitting alongside such heavyweights as James Bond, Batman, “Twilight” and Harry Potter. That adds an extra layer of scrutiny to its performance. Lionsgate’s stock slid 5% Friday to close down $1.76 at $33.25 after it became clear that “Mockingjay – Part 1” would fall short of projections.

Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson all reprised their roles in “Mockingjay – Part 1,” with “Catching Fire’s” Francis Lawrence once again assuming the director’s chair. The film cost $140 million to produce. Stateside, the opening audience was 60% female and 52% under the age of 25. That’s roughly the same demographic breakdown as “Catching Fire’s” opening crowd, which was 59% female and evenly split between ticket-buyers above and below the age of 25.

With “Hunger Games” expected to be a box office juggernaut, studios steered clear of the weekend. There was no other major wide release.

Among holdovers, “Big Hero 6” and “Interstellar” continued to chug along, picking up $20.1 million and $15.1 million respectively. The animated film’s total stands at $135.7 million, while Christopher Nolan’s outer space adventure has earned $120.7 million.

It was a steep fall for “Dumb and Dumber To,” however. The comedy sequel topped the box office charts last weekend, but plunged 62% in its sophomore frame to $13.8 million. The further adventures of Harry and Lloyd have earned $47.5 million, thus far.

Those four films accounted for the bulk of ticket sales, leaving crumbs for the rest of the pack. In fifth place, “Gone Girl” picked up $2.8 million, driving its total to $156.8 million, while “Beyond the Lights” snagged sixth position with $2.6 million, bringing its total to $10.1 million.

“St. Vincent” continued to be one of the year’s few indie breakouts, earning $2.4 million and pushing its take to $36.5 million, while “Fury” added $1.9 million to its $79.2 million haul.

Ninth place finisher “Birdman” is nearing $15 million at the box office after padding its box office earnings with another $1.9 million.

Oscar contender “Theory of Everything” cracked the top 10 in its third week of release, expanding from 41 theaters to 140 and earning $1.5 million in the process. It will broaden its footprint to 700 theaters next week.

Though “Mockingjay – Part 1” has a good shot of being the year’s highest-grossing domestic release, the fact that it fell short of its predecessors’ debuts is a disappointment for Lionsgate. It’s possible that some moviegoers stayed away because the final installment was split into two parts. But there’s a silver lining, of course.

“When you look at the grand scheme of things, they’ll still make gobs more money than if they only released one film,” said Jeff Bock, chief analyst with Exhibitor Relations.

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  1. This is why the illogical use of dollars as a measurement (instead of actual ticket sales) is ridiculous and grossly inaccurate to gauge a film’s popularity.

    Does the music industry measure success of an album by dollars? No. Does the TV industry use advertising revenue? No. Does the book industry use dollars? No. Does the comics industry? Nope. NO other industry uses this inconsistent, always-changing metric. How many tickets did GONE WITH THE WIND sell for a dime or quarter? A lot more than this movie. Look at the all-time list for ticket sales and it’s much different.

    It’s an old, outdated and silly measurement and media outlets like VARIETY and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY need to catch up with the times and do away with it. Or at the very least, give us the actual TICKET SALES data along with the (ever-variable) dollars.

  2. loco73 says:

    This constant obsession of how a movie performs at the box office is bad enough. I understand that this is also a business and studios have to make a return profit on these movies. But this is just over analyzing things!!!

    People are almost looking for a reason to declare this movie a failure! And if they cannot find a “legitimate” reason, then they start obsessively searching through the numbers and counting each decimal point or clutching to every bit of contrarian statements or news from everyone who has a blog and is willing to make some negative statement about the movie.

    You just can’t please anyone these days. This is a solid movie, from a franchise that was originally supossed to be somekind of “Twilight” follow-up, largely and primarily directed towards tweeners, one that has clearly reached a level of appeal which draws fans from all walks of life and of all ages. It has been phenomenally profitable and it has garnered enough critical acclaim. This franchise is not perfect by any means. But far, far from all these negative sounding connotations and impressions left by this “made-up failure” syndrome. Not bad for a series of movies that was suppossed to fall under the YA category!!!

    Today’s criteria is made up and build-up in such a way so as to eventually expect failure from a movie or a franchise of movies. It’s as if a movie does not fail on its own, due to whatever reason, people are ready and willing to invent reasons for failure.

    By these standards many of our most beloved and important movies would be considered failures in this day and age…think about that!

  3. Jason says:

    Perhaps people will wait. Week or two to see the movie ? Movie projections are stupid. It’s the total gross that counts.

    • Razor84 says:

      No, I’d say ticket numbers. For that, Titanic is a bigger movie than Avatar.

      • John Shutt says:

        If that’s the case, then Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, Sound of Music and ET are the biggest films ever as they are the only movies that are higher then Titanic when adjusted. Avatar is much lower adjusted

  4. the reason it made less is that people are on to hollywood and these absurd “part one” movies. all build up and no pay off. why not just wait a year to see it? same reason that deathly hallows part 1 was the lowest grossing/lowest rated movie in that series. this two-part finale trend is the epitome of avarice ultimately backfiring.

    • John Shutt says:

      Precisly. If this was just one film, the grosses would have been much higher. By splitting it into two films, you annoy hard core fans plus force many of the more casual moviegoers who would otherwise go for something like to hold off until the finale.

  5. Flipping4flops says:

    Weekend Shockers: 1) Hunger Games: Mockingjay opening 30-40 million dollars less than the previous films represents a significant drop-off in business for the franchise on its opening weekend and don’t be surprised when we see a continuing weakening in its box office performance over the weeks ahead. Clearly, there’s going to be a huge gap in attendance and financial performance between this film and the others in the final analysis.
    2). AMAZING HOLDS for Big Hero 6 and Interstellar grossing 20 and 15 million respectively in their 3rd weekends of release
    3) HUGE FAIL for Dumb & Dumber 2 in weekend #2- (62% drop-off) Word of mouth is mostly negative despite the efforts of studio hype
    4) Everything else in theaters became afterthoughts this weekend. Does three million dollars, give or take a few hundred thousand dollars, represent a new box office low for a weekend top five film given the current cost of a movie ticket? The gap between the top four films and everything else is extraordinary. Although, Dumb and Dumber 2 could join the loser group at the box office if it sees another 60% to 70% drop at the box office next weekend as well.

  6. dandrews1138 says:

    You know, sometimes people are such idiots. The entire company lost 5% of its value in a single day?

    First, that’s ridiculous for one movie not performing as well as expected. Lionsgate has a HUGE portfolio. Even a movie as big as this one performing softly is easily recoverable for them.

    Second, it may not have met expectations, but it was the top earner of the year and inside the top 15 openers of all time.

    Third, it paid for its production AND marketing costs in one weekend. Everything from here on is cake. Box office, merchandise, cable, rentals, DVD and Blu Ray… It’s all cake.

    Makes me wish I had a lot of cash on hand, because that 5% will be back REALLY fast.

    • dandrews

      a film must earn 2.5 times what it cost to produce. At $140 m with approximately 100 plus million to market , the film must earn at minimum between 380-425 to break even not accounting for salaries and if there are profit participants after the studio clears their monies. (keep in mind if marketing exceeded $140 m- it will take a bit longer to recoup

      so not so fast,- the studio will earn back its cost but not this weekend and since it has opened up in most of the world- its not all cake yet

      • jlinn says:

        How is that a silly or incorrect generalization? It is basic accounting. A movie studio does not get all of the money brought in at the box office, thus a movie needs to make significantly more at the box office before the studio starts to see a profit from the costs of production and advertising.

      • MarketingMan says:

        2.5 times its cost? What a silly generalization. And a completely incorrect one, in this case.

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