‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2’ is a Smash Hit, So Why the Disappointment?

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2
Courtesy of Lionsgate

The final film in the “Hunger Games” series debuted to numbers that few pictures in history have ever enjoyed, but not everyone seems impressed.

Indeed, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is a victim of the franchise’s success. The film’s $101 million bow ranks as the lowest of the four installments and is off 17% from the previous film in the series. Globally, the picture also struggled to attract as big crowds. The $247 million it made worldwide fell short of the roughly $300 million that many analysts expected the picture would generate.

Outwardly, Lionsgate, the studio that nurtured the futuristic series and than saw its share price climb on the films’ success, said it was pleased with the results.

“Any time we can have a conversation about a movie grossing over $100 million in its opening weekend, that’s an unbelievable result,” said David Spitz, Lionsgate’s domestic distribution chief.

Others were less sanguine. The media was particularly hard-hitting in its assessment, with many outlets arguing that the series’ popularity has waned. The Wall Street Journal said the film “didn’t hit a bullseye,” and Forbes suggested the opening “may be cause for despair.”

Lionsgate’s shares dropped on Friday and could continue to fall in trading Monday on news that the picture had missed estimates that had it opening to $120 million or better. Analysts were split, recognizing that the film fell short commercially, while acknowledging that it seemed untoward to grouse about an opening that dwarfed that of other major releases like “Spectre” or “Inside Out.”

“Who has ever had to defend an $100 million opening before?” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “They do because of how big a success the first two films were and how big a drop the last two had. That quick a fall off shows that you can’t churn these movies out. It’s a learning point for the industry.”

In retrospect, there were signs that the franchise was losing steam. The opening weekend for “Mockingjay – Part 1” fell more than 20% from its predecessor, “Catching Fire,” and critics have grown less kind as the series progressed.  The fourth and final picture had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 70% “fresh” compared to a 89% “fresh” rating for “Catching Fire.”

The diminished enthusiasm was reflected in social media. Facebook and Twitter mentions for “Mockingjay – Part 2” were off substantially from the first installment in the two-part sendoff.

Compounding issues, “Mockingjay – Part 2” ends on a relatively downbeat note. Although a series built around children fighting to the death always had dark undercurrents, the film ended with political maneuvering and betrayals that prevented it from concluding on a triumphal note. Moreover, some of the novelty of the concept had worn off by the fourth and final installment.

“Sometimes with the first installments there’s a lightheartedness that’s not there at the end,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “Because of their newness, it’s exciting, and it’s fun to be at the forefront and the beginning of a new franchise before the fatigue sets in.”

Bock blames the drop in popularity on Lionsgate’s decision to spread “Mockingjay” over two pictures, which he argues there wasn’t enough story to justify. Dramatically, that had its problems, but investors are unlikely to argue with the over $1 billion in box office the two films have already racked up. Business usually trumps art and Wall Street isn’t overflowing with cinephiles.

“Lionsgate makes a lot more money by splitting it up,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “From a consumer perspective, it’s questionable, but financially it was the right thing to do.”

The films may have suffered from an accelerated cultural metabolism. The “Harry Potter” pictures were able to stretch out their story lines for more than a decade, but in today’s streaming, sharable, clickable, 24/7, hyper-stimulated media landscape, films and television shows are lucky to capture the zeitgeist for more than a millisecond. Some audience members may have aged out of the world of Panem or moved on to other diversions in the relatively swift four years that it took for the stories to unfold. It’s a signal, perhaps, that “Fifty Shades of Grey” and other hot, wouldbe franchises are wise not to wait too long between installments.

But it was a reboot of another venerated film series that overshadowed and dampened excitement for the final “Hunger Games.” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” doesn’t hit theaters for another month, but the return to the galaxy far, far away, snatched headlines from “Mockingjay – Part 2” this week when news broke that the film had shattered pre-sales records.

“It hurt it,” said Bock. “There was not one story about ‘Hunger Games’ pre-sales hype. The coverage was all about ‘Star Wars.'”

Despite falling short of out-sized expectations, “Hunger Games” remains a Tiffany franchise. A series that has upended old rules of what makes movies successful and will influence a rising generation of filmmakers, just as “Star Wars” once did. It dispelled the old myths that audiences wouldn’t accept action films with female leads. It proved that pictures without superheroes can inspire fan bases that are as fervent and devoted as those of “The Avengers” or “The Dark Knight.” And it cemented Jennifer Lawrence’s status as the most bankable actress of her generation at a time when star power is at its nadir.

The problem is that after four years and countless copycat series, from “Maze Runner” to “Divergent,” some of the novelty wore off. A franchise that once seemed fresh and hot and new, is showing signs of age.

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  1. Jared Art says:

    It did suck, so stupid and unrealistic on so many levels. Also the stealth (but also very loud) mutant zombies and cat lady gave me brain cancer.

  2. Duderino says:

    It just sucked.

  3. BlueDestiny says:

    Well, the film was absolutely ridiculous to absurd proportions. Somehow the faction that ruled with an iron fist had no troops left and were cowarding in a palace, but then also somehow had the enormous resources to quickly deploy an endless amount of highly embedded and complex traps throughout the huge city. Endless each unique traps that entailed thousands of tons of materials and resources on individual traps, embedded into buildings, into streets, between and including multiple buildings, etc. While a long term sci-fi fan, this called for a suspension of disbelief the equivalent of ‘suspension of any thought by the viewer what-so-ever, so much so that would require termination of viewers’ autonomous breathing functions while watching”. It was ridiculous. I laughed through the entire city sequences, mostly in sadness for where the film and series was going.

  4. taner archibald says:

    well comparatively speaking with other films this year when you compare it to the fact that both Furious Seven and Jurassic World made over a billion dollars in less than 3 weeks, which is an astronomical feat, then everything else comparatively is dissapointing plus everybody already has tickets for the big bad box office ass kicker called star wars next week.

  5. Carol says:

    I’m not sure we saw the same movie. Ends on a downbeat note? The tyrants are dead, the good guys prevailed and Katniss and Peers lived happily ever after.

    I think the movie suffered from a lack of advertising. The only tv advertising I saw mentioning the movie was a car company as. Never saw a trailer. Of the stars made the talk show rounds I never saw it. In fact, I was getting nervous there was a delay or that the finale was going to be scrapped altogether. The fact that they opened as well as they did should have been a pleasant surprise.

  6. Mick says:

    It just wasn’t a very good movie. Maybe someday someone will edit the two flaccid parts of “Mockingjay” into one decent movie, but in the meantime it was dull and settled into the predictable “monster fights” that we’ve seen in every other Sci-fi fantasy for the past 20 years. As in the other films, the monster fights are just padding. I was thinking, “get on with it!” The movie was also hurt by PS Hoffman’s premature death. His final scene could have been great, instead of having that scene turned into a letter read by the blond guy to a bored Catniss and a bored audience that was just waiting for the movie to please be over. Yeah, the producers got their billion bucks, but they would have had even more over the long term if they had just made a decent movie. The series could have been a classic, but it was turned into a routine genre-flick.

  7. Bill Clinton says:

    The dialogue was weak, there were not enough bad guys or challenges, there was little to no development of characters like The Rings or Potter. Snow should have been more like the Dark Lord of The Rings and Potter series. I got bored.

  8. des says:

    first of all there was no advertisements leading up to this film. The first time I heard it was finally coming out was just a week before. Second, now that there is such black friday frenzy that starts on thursday, may have kept some people out of the theaters. I personally do not go to the movie theaters, they are too expensive and dirty, so anxiously awaiting the release of the dvd to add to my collection.

  9. alice says:

    I completely disagree with this article. Especially if you read the books..All the other books that turned into movies were always a disappointment to me so I was worried that going to the theatre to even watch the ending of this series would leave me feeling unsatisfied as usual. BUT.. they did an awesome job. I couldn’t believe how well the 4th installment was. I wasn’t expecting it all to be as good as it was. Even if they took out the last little add-on part at the end.. it still would have been an amazing movie.. Forever my favorite book series and now my favorite movie series. And spectre? Please I never even gave an ounce of a thought to go see that movie and I’d rather watch Inside Out at home than in the theatre.

    • MockingJay says:

      yes I totally agreed. I was so surprise how (almost) accurate the movie was compared to the book. While I did love the other movies they didn’t include the book as much especially in Catching Fire.

  10. MC says:

    I couldn’t get past the misused (than) in beginning of the article (you meant “then”). You’re a SENIOR staff reporter?

  11. I can’t take an article serious when it’s bad written and have misspellings. Work on that first.

  12. Gerald O'Hare says:

    This was the best one yet. The casting is stunning even down to a baby that looks like JL. Characters with depth enhanced the story line. Bad guys on both sides made the story solid..Go see this terrific movie.

  13. blanch says:

    I loved the movie. The ideology of the novel really resonates with the culture of today where people should be thinking about how much liberty they are willing to give up for security. So many people are wrapped up in mindless reality shows and other trashy entertainment, that the world could fall apart around them and they would still be worried about which girt the bachelor chose. I thought the action and the novel’s message brought alive through the film were well worth my time and the $9.50 ticket price.

  14. Nicholas says:

    Ironically I would say it’s the best of the series, The deepest and with the most to say.

  15. Forgive my sense of humor, but I think Mel Brooks would do a hysterical send off on Hunger Games! Remember the last fight scene in Blazing Saddles?

  16. Maloogie says:

    Very few follow on features, Parts II and such, and I am reminded of Star Wars as the exception, do better than predecessors. Add to that the greed attendant splitting a third book into two parts (this isn’t Kill Bill I/II), a downbeat darker tone, and 25 year old’s playing teens (yeah, Jennie, your comment about your career being over at 35 is sounded eerily in this “prequel” of that terrible real life Hollywood truth)–but there are other things diluting these franchises:

    1. Lots of good movies out there competing for joesixpac’s dollars.
    2. Lots of OLED TV’s where your picture and sound at home will outstrip any big screen this year. Many will save a fortune by buying on demand.
    3. The evaporation of discretionary funds as the middle class disappears ($80 for a family of four including popcorn? I’ll skip the on demand button, wait for the Blu Ray thanks, and get to spend qualify time with my favorite stars as they cavort around the set).

    Economic pundits think we’ve recovered, from the recession, THEY are living in a dream world. Think–Four movies a month, that’s couple car payments. I know nobody in my life that flush. And I USED to.

    If you want some of those meager joesixpac dollars, you got plenty of competition to wade through.

    Now I go to matinees with a couple friends, we are the only ones in the movie. That didn’t happen here, there was a handful of people in this movie house at 1PM in afternoon.

    Give it some space. This may be a slower burn, burning twice as long.

  17. Jerry says:

    This analysis misses the obvious truth: the third book is often rated by readers as the weakest in the trilogy. Without the structure and format of the Hunger Games itself, the book felt like it’s pacing was jumbled and it’s plot mishmashed and random. That may very well have been intentional – real wars are never pretty, after all. But while it was perhaps the right thing to do creatively, the stark contrast still did leave readers very dissatisfied.

    So why would they spend their moviegoing dollars to see an adaptation of a book that didn’t hit the sweet spot? There’s your missing $20 million. It’s not because the movies were “churned out” or the franchise did something wrong, it’s because the movies were received EXACTLY the way the books were.

    • Steve Benger says:

      Mockingjay 2 was a great movie . Better than part 1. I think the turn out for this movie was not as high because of Mockingjay 1.

      • Nicholas says:

        I would agree steve, in addition, I would say the third book is the best of the three, however the themes may have been too complex for most light readers to understand.

  18. alytalks says:

    People are over series. Every successful movie that came out of Hollywood was from a book series, and now they’ve pumped out so many that people have grown bored. Even superfans are bored (myself included). With basically no creativity left coming from Hollywood, we are forced to watch continuous installments of small books that seemingly never end (this movie shouldn’t have been stretched into two movies….). Harry Potter was wildly successful, but that’s all. Hopefully Hollywood will get the picture (while also learning to keep their mouths shut about controversial things *cough Seth Rogen and Jennifer Lawrence cough*).

    • alice says:

      The last movies they did for Harry Potter were boring. They literally had a whole Harry Potter with no action and then Bam right at the end it started picking up and then credits.. Also they really made Harry potter look so weak in the movies and such a wimp. I was not pleased with those movies at all. Hopefully you did read the Hunger Games books and watched the movies because *in my opinion* they were farrrr better than watching countless Wimpy Harry Potter movies.

      • alytalks says:

        Of course I read Hunger Games. I’ve loved the series for years, which is why I’m so disappointed with the final films. I knew it would be hard to get Katniss right, but even though I at first loved JLaw’s performance, it started to really falter, in my opinion, toward the end of the films. I’ve been a massive HG book and movie fan, but like I said, I just didn’t enjoy the final films as much.

  19. Gemma says:

    If anyone has notice this dystopian YA films aren’t making as much? The Maze Runner sequel barely made as much as the first film, the same thing happened with the Divergent sequel. And those two franchises are going to do the same thing with their final movie as Hunger Games. The shitty looking The 5th Wave is gonna bomb in January as well.

  20. Daniel says:

    I think Hunger Games saga never ever was so entertaining like Harry Potter film series and that seemed clear with the last two films of this.
    Also I think people can be tired of Jennifer Lawrence appearing in everything, like another Young/Adolescent franchise “X-Men”, in comedies, dramas and winning Oscar. It’s too much for a so young actress when she isn’t so talented actually. And you can know because there isn’t so huge buzzing around Joy like another O. Russell films or another Lawrence films.

    • Jack says:

      People like you are the reason why I lost faith in humanity a long time ago…Jennifer Lawrence deserves an Oscar for her amazing performance as Katniss Everdeen and while Harry Potter and other franchises like that are just a crowd-pleasing tool, Hunger Games carries clever, important political messages. It’s much more than a franchise, it’s an allegory for our times. It actually brings something to the audience, important matters to discuss…But I don’t expect people who reason the way you do to understand.

      • Daniel says:

        The fact you’re a fanboy about Hunger Games saga tells about you more than anything. The series not because can bring some new political material never seen in Hollywood movies doesn’t mean the Hunger Games films be entertaining or good like Harry Potter films of its saga were, just check out the reviews for it.
        And Harry Potter brings important political and social issue in the films too so please we don’t make like Hunger Games has been the only young/adolescent franchise in shows political subjects in it. Don’t overact.

  21. Michael says:

    Why the Disappointment? I haven’t seen the movie and will NEVER watch this garbage…. MAYBE I would if Jennifer were peeing in the sink in this movie too….

    • James says:

      But you will watch all the mainstream, Star Wars related garbage, and you will buy their pajamas…THG is no garbage, it contains very clever, important political messages. The problem is that the word clever and US citizens don’t go together…

  22. snark says:

    Jake has the right idea about sales figures. It’s primarily our wallets. Viewers may have tired of two parters that could been more focused on story and acting if there weren’t as much time consuming graphic enhancement. That time is not only on the screen, but on the wait time involved between installments because a graphics team, who do a remarkably good job, keep fine-tuning their contribution to the film; which, by the way, is going to play better on the smaller home screen.
    Meantime, Variety, check your spelling and grammar. It’s disappointing to read an article by a high profile media source that misuses THAN for THEN.

  23. Jake says:

    It isn’t that the gleam has faded from the franchise, rather the drop in box office is due to the consumer public’s exhaustion at the continuing assault on their wallets by the proliferation of 2-part conclusions.

  24. enjoyed it says:

    I thought this was a great movie, though certainly grimmer then the rest. It had a bit of the lord of the rings ending syndrome, but otherwise i was satisfied with the movie and franchise as a whole.

    • James says:

      I thought it was great too. Criticism is mainly for splitting the book…but that’s a really stupid mainstream mentality. As a fan, I was pleased to get one more movie and clearly Lionsgate only proved to make a great business decision. Infinity War is going to split in two and I’m sure future franchises will continue. It is a business after all.

  25. Ken. says:

    I think the answer is relatively obvious here: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 was lousy; people are being more circumspect this time around. I, for one, won’t catch it until it streams somewhere next year.

    • Nicholas says:

      I would agree. I thought part 2 was the best of the series, but part 1 was definitely very uneven and slow. In addition, it didn’t really cover the deep topics of book 3. It was basically the intro.

  26. Jake says:

    Some are perpetuating half-truths and lies, as published in sites like Breitbart and fundamentalist Right Wing Christian sites. In truth, Lawrence called out Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk that abrogated her sworn duty and refused to permit marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Lawrence also compared Davis’s so-called Christian supporters to an unruly mob with pitchforks.
    Lawrence never criticized true Christians. If calling out bigots is bigotry, then so be it.
    It seems likely that the “Kline” who has commented on this page is a perpetrator of the same lies and half-truths, so it isn’t much of a stretch to assume that he is in the Kim Davis camp.

    • RalphCC says:

      I posted this in the wrong space. This is a response to JAKE:

      I did not know about these comments with Lawrence and Christians, but apparently, you don’t understand that your comments are just as bigoted as Lawrence’s. If you are not a Christian, you can’t say what a “good Christian” is. That’s like a straight person telling a gay person that only “good gays” think the way “I” think. Why you or Lawrence can’t understand your obvious bigotry is beyond me.

    • RalphCC says:

      I did not know about these comments with Lawrence and Christians, but apparently, you don’t understand that your comments are just as bigoted as Lawrence’s. If you are not a Christian, you can’t say what a “good Christian” is. That’s like a straight person telling a gay person that only “good gays” think the way “I” think. Why you or Lawrence can’t understand your obvious bigotry is beyond me.

    • Bill says:

      Lawrence said nothing about “true” Christians, she said “Christians,” period, and has issued no clarifications.

  27. Feminists says:

    Feminist media trying to lighten the blow of this massive disappointment look at the numbers for the last Harry Potter movie and you will understand how big a fail this is.

  28. WRT says:

    Exactly – why the disappointment? The whole series sucks to high heaven, anyway. Unless you are a teenager, and refuse to use your brain, that is.

  29. Just make three movies. Sick of this splitting a book into two parts just to make more money on more movies. UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  30. Kline says:

    The souring on the bigot Jennifer Lawrence is beginning as well. The dislike for her is turning into glee for some that the film has fallen short of expectations.

  31. cadavra says:

    As my former boss was wont to say in situations like this, “It made money everywhere except in people’s minds.”

  32. Lifeotto says:

    Or perhaps it has something to do with that the third book is the worst book out of the trilogy and that the ending was quite poorly thought out.

  33. J-dog says:

    Hollywood bean counters need to be more realistic. They make their decisions based on best cast scenarios rather than recognizing the movie industry is in a state of decline. We don’t need more movies. We need fewer/better movies. Stop flooding the market with sequel/crappy supply and the demand will come back. Stop feeding the supply glut with one more time to the well films.

  34. HPR says:

    the last movie killed the momentum.

  35. therealeverton says:

    A lot of people see this as an example of milking a finale to the detriment of the film quality. There wasn’t much actual information in the first par of this so many people felt bored and let down. So the film fans may have been unsure if the part 2 was going to be the same and may have stayed away until word of mouth, or home viewing kicked in.

    It’s a monster opening, for example X-Men, Dr. Strange and Huntsman : Winter’s war would all be very happy with that opening weekend and Star Wars would be very happy with it, despite the massive over expectation on that film, because it would shatter the December / Christmas period opening weekend with a $101m opening.

    People just expected more from this AND were ready to kick a studio that made an extra film and took some of their money that they simply didn’t need to. The next adaptation that splits a book and has a lacklustre 1st part will be a trifle more concerned now.

  36. bsbarnes says:

    Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 also opened in the wake of the Paris terrorist attack and was unfortunately depicting a rebel group attacking the sitting government, so it lost a lot of steam as a purely escapist entertainment. This was unavoidable for Lionsgate, but this franchise is the 600 pound gorilla on their balance sheet, so a lot of promises were made that could not be kept. A pyrrhic victory for President Snow.

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