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Box Office: ‘Mockingjay’ Hits Franchise Low Despite No. 1 Opening of the Year

Updated: Early Friday projections show Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” heading for an opening weekend of about $125 million in the U.S. — significantly lower than recent forecasts and over 20% below the first two “Hunger Games” movies.

However, international box office for the first part of the “Hunger Games” finale is up 5% to 10% above last year’s “Catching Fire” with more than $33 million in two days.

The U.S. opening day grosses for “Mockingjay,” according to early estimates, will likely reach $54 million, including $17 million from Thursday night showings, followed by about $43 million on Saturday and another $29 million on Sunday.

Should those numbers hold, the U.S. opening weekend for “Mockingjay” would finish far below 2012’s “The Hunger Games” with $152 million and last year’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” with $158 million. Box office trackers had expected “Mockingjay” to finish between $130 million and $150 million in the U.S.

Still, a $125 million U.S. opening for “Mockingjay” would be the biggest 2014 launch by far, easily topping the $100 million mark set by “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in June. And only 15 other films have opened at over $120 million domestically, led by the $207 million for “Marvel’s The Avengers” in 2012.

Thursday night’s business for “Mockingjay” was 33% behind last year’s massive $25.3 million Thursday night launch for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and 14% below the $19.7 million earned by the first “Hunger Games” on its first night of release in March, 2012.

Lionsgate’s stock dipped 5% Friday after the estimates were released.

According to some observers, the Thursday night numbers for “Mockingjay” may have been held down by the freezing weather that’s hit the Northern Plains, upper Midwest and East Coast. Additionally, “Mockingjay” was not shown on Imax screens, unlike the two previous films, with “Interstellar” still showing at those venues.

Hollywood has been counting on “Mockingjay” to provide a jolt to the domestic business, which has lagged last year’s total by 3.6%. “Mockingjay” has been expected to become the top grosser of the year, eclipsing the $330 million for Marvel-Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“Mockingjay” remains likely to dominate business through the next 10 days over the Thanksgiving holiday. Two wide releases will offer competition on Wednesday — New Line’s R-rated comedy “Horrible Bosses 2” and Fox/DreamWorks toon “The Penguins of Madagascar.”

Aiming Higher Overseas

Last year’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” opened with $146 million in foreign markets for an overall worldwide launch of $307 million. A 10% gain would place the “Mockingjay” foreign number at about $160 million; with $120 million in the U.S., the worldwide total could wind up around $285 million, down 7%.

“Mockingjay” has been the top opener of the year in all its early markets, including Scandinavia and Benelux.

“Mockingjay” opened in nine markets Wednesday, including France and Scandinavia, then opened in 59 markets Thursday including the U.K., Germany, Australia, Italy, Mexico and Korea. It added 17 more markets on Friday, including Spain, for a total of 85 markets, making it the biggest day-and-date release of the year and Lionsgate’s widest release ever.

However, “Mockingjay” was recently delayed in China and is now set for a first-quarter 2015 opening.

The U.K. launch generated $3.6 million including previews, up 12% from “Catching Fire.” The U.K. generated the top international gross for “Catching Fire” at $55 million.

Germany launched with $2.9 million on its first day, up 11% from “Catching Fire” for the best opening of 2014. France generated $3 million in its first two days, up more than 10% from “Catching Fire” and Belgium was up 5%.

Latin America saw gains of 40% to 55% and Russia posted a record for the biggest 2D opening day of the year with $2.7 million, up 28% from “Catching Fire.”

Australia’s opening day was $2.4 million, the best of the year while Korea was up 41% from the “Catching Fire” opening.

Analysts had forecast in recent weeks that “Mockingjay — Part 1” would take in between $925 million and $1 billion worldwide, a 7% to 16% bump from the previous film’s $865 million gross.

Disney’s third weekend of “Big Hero 6” is expected to lead the rest of the pack this weekend with about $24 million, followed by Paramount’s third weekend of “Interstellar” at around $16 million.

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