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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ Final ‘Hunger Games’ Most Anticipated Fall Releases Ever (Survey)

Moviegoers can’t wait to see Katniss Everdeen lead the people of Panem to freedom or witness the Millennium Falcon roar across the screen after three decades in dry-dock, according to a recent survey by Piedmont Media Research.

The consumer tracking company polled 3,000 people about upcoming fall movies and found that “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” were the most hotly anticipated upcoming releases. In fact, both films scored some of the highest ratings Piedmont has recorded since it began polling audiences five years ago. The company rates consumer engagement on a scale of zero to 1,000, and the fourth and final “Hunger Games” had a 514 rating, beating last summer’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and its score of 509, as the best overall number it has ever recorded.

The “Star Wars” sequel posted a 495 rating, the third best figure since Piedmont began its surveys. It also had the best score among males that Piedmont has seen with 553. Females also are looking forward to the film, with their interest level hitting 383.

While “The Force Awakens” may seem to be more of a winter release — a previous Fandango survey excluded the film from its fall report — it hits theaters on Dec. 18, with winter technically starting on Dec. 21.

“Those are huge numbers,” said Joshua Lynn, president of Piedmont Media Research. “Every demographic is showing up for this.”

Other films that resonated strongly with audiences were “Hotel Transylvania 2” with 313 and “The Martian,” the Matt Damon and Ridley Scott sci-fi adventure, with 255. “Spectre,” James Bond’s latest martini-swilling outing, had a 282 rating, which represents an improvement over the 007 series’ last installment, “Skyfall,” with 231. Lynn said big-budget films need to score in the 250 range if they want to be successful.

On the lower end, fantasy epic “Pan” suffered a 205, biopic “Steve Jobs” logged a 162, Bradley Cooper kitchen dramedy “Burnt” clocked in at 144, horror comedy “Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse” had a 142, and “Jem And The Holograms,” an adaptation of the 1980s animated show, eked out a 127. Of course, most of these pictures are mid to low-budget offerings, with the exception of the $155 million budgeted “Pan,” so they aren’t as dependent on scoring massive openings in order to be successful.

The people surveyed were selected to be demographically representative of the movie-going public in terms of age, gender, ticket-buying behavior and ethnicity. Piedmont also tries to quantify the impact that a film’s cast has on audiences. It polls people to find out if their interest rises or falls when a particular concept is matched to an actor and filmmaking team.

Much has been written and many hands wrung over the diminution of star power, but Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie still seem to earn their paychecks. “By the Sea,” the off-screen couple’s dissection of a failing marriage, got a 43% bump in interest when Pitt and Jolie’s names were attached to the concept. “Daddy’s Home,” an upcoming comedy with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, enjoyed a 51.8% increase and “Rock the Kasbah,” a military comedy with Bill Murray and Bruce Willis, received a 39.7% surge in popularity when the cast was revealed.

Quentin Tarantino is the major attraction when it comes to “The Hateful Eight.” The revisionist western saw its rating jump 26.4% when the “Pulp Fiction” director’s involvement was emphasized. And “The Night Before,” a Christmas comedy with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, increased 36.5%, while “Bridge of Spies,” a historical drama from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, climbed 28.3% when their talent was matched with a particular concept.

Not every film was so lucky. “MacBeth,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play” with Marion Cottilard and Michael Fassbender, saw it score plunge 23.5% when its stars were listed alongside the film. Likewise, “Victor Frankenstein,” a horror film with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe stepping into Mary Shelley territory, dropped 14.2% when the actors were matched with the material. Nor was “MacBeth,” the only time Fassbender fell flat with fans. Interest in “Steve Jobs”dipped 7.9% when the Oscar-nominee’s casting as the Apple founder was mentioned alongside the film’s plot description.

Some films are cast proof. Enthusiasm for the new “Star Wars,” for example, neither rose nor fell when its cast of veterans like Harrison Ford and newcomers such as Daisy Ridley was matched to the latest story from a galaxy far, far away.

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