Box Office Top 10 Film News

Box Office: The 123 Million Dollar Question – Why Didn’t Hunger Games: Mockingjay Do Better?

Around a month ago I saw a headline over at The Hollywood Reporter which roughly read, “Will Hunger Games: Mockingjay make box office history?”  Why not, right?  To this point, Hunger Games has been remarkably well managed by its studio, and its first two installments have posted positively head-turning box office totals.  It’s largely because of the astounding performance of the first Hunger Games, released in March 2012, that we suddenly have things like Captain America: Winter Soldier opening in April and Batman v Superman in March, and the second Hunger Games made more money domestically than either Iron Man 3 or Frozen last year.  So, could the third installment challenge The Avengers for biggest opening weekend ($207 million)of all time?  Umm, no.  That was remarkably unlikely.  However, you’d still expect Mockingjay to at least open even with its two predecessors.  Instead, it opened significantly lower.  What happened?

Let’s do the numbers:

Top 10 Estimated Domestic Totals (11/21-11/23)

1. Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Opening Weekend)the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-review

  • Weekend Gross=$123 million
  • Budget=$125 million ($250 million for Part 1 & Part 2)

Foreign: $152m from 85 markets for a five-day worldwide debut of $275m.  This was the widest release of the year as well as the widest release in Lionsgate’s history.  As such, Mockingjay‘s total foreign opening is 4% higher than Catching Fire‘s, but it’s not an exact comparison since Catching Fire‘s opened in 22 fewer markets.  Still, Lionsgate is claiming Mockingjay opened 5%-19% above Catching Fire in most major markets, with the UK being the leading market at $19.9m for the weekend.  China won’t get Mockingjay until sometime in 2015.

$275 million.  Hunger Games just made two hundred & seventy five freakin’ million dollars in 5 days.  How do you even begin to know what to make of that?  That’s an impossible amount of money for any movie to have made in 5 days (most of it came in just 3 days, really), and more than most movies make altogether.  If that $275m was the dollar amount for a professional sports contract it would be one of the biggest in all of North American sports, but at least there the money is doled out for as long as 13 years, not a couple of days.  So, why is Mockingjay‘s $275m somehow a disappointment, or at least surprisingly lower than expected?

Because that $275 million came from Mockingjay opening in 22 more markets than Catching Fire did, and with more opportunities for ticket sales you would have thought it would have done better than just 4% bigger than Catching Fire.  However, more importantly that $275m includes a domestic total ($123m) that is actually the worst in franchise history.  The first Hunger Games opened to $152m which Catching Fire bested last year with $158m.  Mockingjay even opened lower than the penultimate installments of the last two major YA franchises to split their final book into two films, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 ($125m) and Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($138m).

So, why did Mockingjay just open 22% lower domestically than Catching Fire?  Well, it’s adapted from the least popular Hunger Games novel, it’s story structure is entirely different than the first two films, it didn’t have the benefit of IMAX (thanks to Interstellar), the reviews are ho-hum, largely arguing that not much happens and there wasn’t enough story to warrant splitting the final novel into two movies.  It’s also facing tougher competition (Interstellar, Big Hero 6 vs. Best Man Holiday, Thor: The Dark World for Catching Fire), and it is the third Hunger Games movie in 3 years.   Plus, Thanksgiving is literally a couple of days away.  So, if this films feels slightly less like an event than the last one in the franchise you might be more inclined to wait and see it with family while killing time on Thanksgiving rather than rush out to see it opening weekend, especially since neither of the movies (Penguins of Madagascar, Horrible Bosses 2) opening over Thanksgiving are ones you desperately have to see.  This can also be attributed to growing audience fatigue with books being split in half translating to films with no true endings.  At least the first Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn films had some major action set pieces or monumental events, like Bella’s wedding.  Mockingjay-Part 1 simply doesn’t have that, and if you read the book you already knew that and if you didn’t all the reviews and word of mouth told you as much.

Let’s not lose sight of the following, though: Mockingjay did just score the 15th biggest opening weekend of all time, and it was only the second film of 2014, a down year at the box office, to open with more than $100m, the other being Transformers 4.  By doing so, Hunger Games joined Harry Potter and Twilight as the only film franchises to have three installments post $100m+ debuts, and Hunger Games is the only one whose $100m debuts came consecutively.  It will not, however, become the first film franchise in history with 3 installments grossing over $400m domestic, as Mockingjay now looks set to finish somewhere between $260m-$330m.  That means it is going to make a lot of money for Lionsgate, just not as much as expected.

2. Big Hero 6Big-Hero-Six-Previews

  • Weekend Gross=$20 million (-42% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$135.7 million
  • Budget=$165 million

Foreign: $7m from the same exact 23 overseas territories as last weekend.  At this point, Big Hero 6 is only playing in 19% of potential international territories, setting records but still bringing in relatively small returns from places like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietman.  Its leading market is currently Russia ($19.5m), but that should change once it expands to Japan next month (12/2), Korea and the UK in January, and China sometime after that.  It is currently looking at an international/worldwide split of $49.5m/$185.2m.

At the moment, Big Hero 6 is ahead of the pace of both Wreck It Ralph and Tangled, Disney Animation Studios’ third and second highest-grossing films of all time, respectively, behind Frozen (of course).  Incidentally, both of those were November releases, just like Big Hero 6.  We’ll have to re-visit this after Thanksgiving, and see how much Penguins of Madasgar bites into Big Hero 6‘s business.

3. Interstellarinterstellar-matthew-mcconaughey-anne-hathaway

  • Weekend Gross=$15.1 million (-47% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$120.6 million
  • Budget=$165 million

Foreign: $70m this weekend, $30.6m of that in China.  With a 12-day total of $82.2m, Interstellar is already Warner Bros. second highest grossing film of all time in China, having already passed the $70.6m Gravity pulled in from the Middle Kingdom.  Interstellar is also the 4th highest grossing ($50.5m) film in South Korea’s history. Overall, Interstellar is up to an international/worldwide split of $329m/$449.6m, and after debuting in Japan this weekend it is now playing pretty much playing everywhere worldwide.

70-30.  That’s the new rule of thumb for how much a major Hollywood studio expects their big films to make overseas vs. at home, 70% international, 30% domestic.  That’s pretty much exactly what Interstellar is doing, though it’s more 73%-27%.  What makes this dynamic all the more intriguing is that Interstellar is actually splitting its business between two studios, domestic to Paramount Pictures, international to Warner Bros.  If you think of it like baseball, WB basically traded sequels to Friday the 13th, South Park, and a TBD project of equal stature to Paramount in exchange for the foreign rights for Interstellar.  They’re not the only ones, though.  The film’s financier, Legendary Pictures, actually gave up its rights to be involved with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, preferring to instead place their bets on Christopher Nolan as they’ve done with all of his films since Batman Begins.  They all had to be thinking that Interstellar was primed to become an Inception-like hit, and that hasn’t really happened.  It is now playing everywhere it’s going to, and its worldwide total still has a long way to go to get to Inception territory ($825m).  However, for a great many reasons Interstellar is simply not built to be an Inception-like hit, and instead of worrying about whether this movie is meeting financial exceptions (it’s definitely meeting them overseas) we should rejoice that an original film of such ambition is marching toward half a billion and likely far beyond at the worldwide box office.

4. Dumb and Dumber To Dumb_and_Dumber_To_42256

  • Weekend Gross=$13.8 million (-61% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$57.4 million
  • Budget=Less than $40 million

Foreign: Still just playing in Germany, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland, Dumb and Dumber To brought in $2.2m this weekend, half of that from Germany.  It currently sits at $13.3m international/$70.7m worldwide.  Universal is only distributing this to a handful of foreign markets, with UK, Australia, and New Zealand the only ones left on the docket.

Well, you had to see this one coming.  Dumb and Dumber To skewed surprisingly towards young males last weekend, and earned a weak B- from opening night audiences on CinemaScore to go along with piss-poor reviews.  It was a prime candidate for a big weekend-to-weekend drop, and that’s exactly what happened, with the film declining more on par with a summer blockbuster than a PG-13 comedy.  With Horrible Bosses 2 on top for Thanksgiving, Dumb and Dumber To clearly won’t have much staying power unless it enjoys a Thanksgiving boost from audiences willfully ignoring the negative word of mouth.

5. Gone GirlGone-Girl-Rosamund-Pike-Amy

  • Weekend Gross=$2.8 million (-38% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$156.8 million
  • Budget=$61 million

Foreign: $2.38m from 31 markets this weekend, upping its international total to $170.9m and worldwide to $327.7m.  Its leading international market is the UK ($35.5m).

Gone Girl has finally declined more than 37% weekend-to-weekend, and that’s after 8 weeks in theaters.  In today’s age of the ridiculously front-loaded box office, that’s quite a testament to Gone Girl‘s word of mouth, comparable if you just look at weekend-to-weekend percentage drops to what Gravity did last year.

6. Beyond the LightsBTLCover

  • Weekend Gross=$2.6 million (-58% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$10.1 million
  • Budget=$7 million

Foreign: No foreign box office

Coming from the same woman who directed Love & Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees, Beyond the Lights is about an R&B singer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who falls for a cop (Nate Parker) after he saves her from a suicide attempt.   After its near 60% decline in this its second weekend of release, Beyond the Lights is trailing well behind the pace of both Love & Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees, which ended with $27.4m and $37.7m respectively.

7. St. VincentSt-Vincent

  • Weekend Gross=$2.3 million (-38% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$36.6 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: Its minimal foreign box office has yet to eclipse $600,000.

Take About a Boy, mix in a little bit of Bad Words, change the surrogate father-son dynamic of those stories to surrogate grandfather-grandson, and you’ve got St. Vincent, a crowd-pleaser that continues to hover around the middle of the top 10.  It may end up equaling the unadjusted box office haul of the film it rips off, About a Boy ($41m).

8. Furyfury_39863

  • Weekend Gross=$1.9 million (-50% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$79.1 million
  • Budget=$68 million

Foreign: Fury netted $12.4m from 48 international markets this weekend, including a $6.7m debut in China.  Its international/worldwide split is up to $74.4m/$153.5m

As of right now, Fury‘s totals are dang near identical to The Monuments Men, which finished with a domestic/worldwide split of $78m/$155m.  It will go down as the higher grossing of the George Clooney or Brad Pitt WWII movies of 2014, especially with several weeks of play in China ahead of it.  However, if you follow the formula that a movie has to double its budget at the worldwide box office just to break even (a formula that ignores marketing costs) you can see that Fury is likely one of those movies that won’t make any real money until home video and cable.

9. Birdmanmichael-keaton-birdman

  • Weekend Gross=$1.8 million (-25% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$14.4 million
  • Budget=$18 million

Foreign: Less than $800,000 from limited international play

Birdman played in essentially the same exact number of theaters as it did last weekend, and continues to perform admirably for an art house experimental comedy which has managed to make Michael Keaton an awards contender.

10. The Theory of EverythingTheory of Everything

  • Weekend Gross=$1.5 million (+104% from last weekend)
  • Total Gross to Date=$2.7 million
  • Budget=They’re not saying

Foreign: No foreign box office yet

We’ve been hearing a lot about The Theory of Everything ever since it played at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this year, mostly because Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Stephen Hawking seems a lock for a Best Actor nomination.  However, prior to this weekend this movie had only been playing in theaters for two weekends, and even after it added more theaters this weekend it’s still only playing in 140 theaters.  As such, it’s all the more impressive that it managed to crack the top 10, posting a strong per-theater average of $10,714.  This calls to the mind the way that Fox handled would-be awards hopeful The Book Thief last year, opening in a couple of theaters for the first part of November before expanding wide around or slightly after Thanksgiving.  The Book Thief ultimately ended up making $21.4m by the end of its run, and it never had a weekend quite like the one Theory of Everything just did.

What Dropped Out of the Top 10?:

Ouija (#8 to #12) and Nightcrawler (#9 to #11).  With $67m worldwide, Ouija is actually the second lowest-grossing Jason Blum-produced horror film.  His high water mark remains Paranormal Activity 3 ($207m worldwide) while Dark Skies is still firmly in place as his weakest performer ($26.7m worldwide).  None of that takes into account the number of Blum films which only receive VOD releases.  However, while all of that may sound negative, Ouija still grossed 13 times over its reported $5m budget.

What’s Up Next?:

Horrible Bosses 2 and The Penguins of Madagascar both open on Wednesday (11/26).



    1. I knew you were on vacation since you wrote about it on your site, but I don’t think I realize you were out of country. So, yeah, you contributed to the foreign box office for a couple of movies. That’s pretty cool.

  1. I have a theory on why Mockingjay isn’t do so well.

    First, let me preface it with this story: A few years ago, my group of friends wanted to see something at the cinema. Mick wanted to see the latest Jessica Alba film, which may have been Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I didn’t because I thought the first film was sub-standard. During our argument, I pondered why he’d want to see her in film if he could just download pictures of her from the Internet – if her physical attractiveness was the only reason he wanted to go.

    There’s plenty of pictures of Jennifer Lawrence on the Internet now and people don’t need to see her in film anymore.

    1. That’s one of those things you can’t really prove, and it seems perhaps crass to even suggest it. However, you’re not wrong – a part of Jennifer Lawrence’s aura has probably been affected by the fact that you can very easily and quickly find naked pics of her online. You don’t have to look at her skintight dress from the Oscars the year she was nominated for Winter’s Bone and wonder; you can just Google to put your imagination to rest. I would say, though, that it seems like in your example someone like Jessica Alba is clearly more of a pure sex symbol than Jennifer Lawrence in that Alba’s been a more objectified figure throughout her career. So, with so much more tease the higher the desire to see her naked. Something like Fantastic Four is going to play more on Alba’s physical appeal than Hunger Games is with Jennifer Lawrence, although I have to be honest that it’s been a while since I’ve seen those Fantastic Four films. I don’t recall if her dress is any more form-fitting/revealing than the one Lawrence sports throughout most of Mockingjay.

      Jennifer Lawrence is not the first celebrity to suffer such an invasion of privacy. Your Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, and Kim Kardashion’s of the world all benefited from their sex tapes, although it’s certainly been argued Paris and Kim staged their tapes and suffered no real invasion of privacy. Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t have a sex tape, though. She just has a bunch of naked photos, and I can’t immediately think of an actress whose had scandalous naked photos destroy or benefit her career. I know that a lot of actresses targeted by the recent widespread nude photo scandal have received tons of sympathy via social media, with female fans (oddly) posting their own naked selfies in solidarity.

      Eh, probably too long-winded a way, on my part, of saying that you might not be wrong. This could be playing a role in Mockingjay’s box office, however minor.

      1. It’s entirely speculation on my part based on a statistical sample of just me. 🙂

        All I remember from Fantastic Four was they all wore tight-fighting lycra and Jessica Alba is better as a brunette.

      2. “All I remember from Fantastic Four was they all wore tight-fighting lycra and Jessica Alba is better as a brunette.”

        It’s pretty much the same for me, too. I guess I also remember thinking that the guy playing Mr. Fantastic had no chemistry with Jessica Alba, and she seemed to have more of a spark with the guy playing her brother, Chris Evans. Plus, Dr. Doom was ever so not good.

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