Weekend Box Office: 'Hunger Games' Takes Another Bite Of The Marketplace, 'Wrath Of The Titans' Underwhelms

Box Office
by Gabe Toro
April 1, 2012 12:54 PM
3 Comments
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It was intriguing to see “The Hunger Games” register an opening weekend just below “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” and “The Dark Knight.” Would it mimic 'Potter,' which scored the biggest domestic opening of all time but plummeted by 72% the following weekend? Or would it perform like the Caped Crusader, losing a little more than half its audience? Split the difference – even though “The Hunger Games” dropped 61% from its opening weeked, the sci-fi drama continued to bust blocks, becoming the fifth-quickest release to pass the $200 million domestic mark, besting two somewhat high-profile new releases. The film also broke the Jim Cameron's "Avatar" record for fastest non-sequel to hit $250 million globally.

The franchise-starter, adapting the first part of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, is due to be followed by “Catching Fire” next November. Given these enthusiastic responses, expect “Mockingjay” to also earn a release date for fourth quarter 2014, with that last installment stretched into two parts a la “Twilight,” “Potter” and “Leonard Part Six Part II.” Jennifer Lawrence might be the hottest star in Hollywood for the moment, but good luck trying to break out of that Lionsgate franchise contract.

There was a lot going against “Wrath of the Titans,” not the least of which that it was opening against the second weekend of a box office behemoth. “Clash of the Titans” opened to $61 million thanks to the strength of then-fresh 3D and the presence of “Avatar” star Sam Worthington. This installment, courtesy of director Jonathan Liebesman (who had a similar, and similarly underwhelming opening almost a year ago with “Battle: Los Angeles”), will likely open to almost half of its predecessor. Ads promised a harder-edge experience than the first film, but it’s likely that 'Clash' was a fluke, a programmer that, thanks to international sales, almost eclipsed $500 million.

Audiences reportedly awarded the film a so-so B+ Cinemascore, but it was clear that too much of that first film had been preserved to heavily diminished returns. The campaign for the first film leaned on the monstrous Kraken, but ads for this sequel seemed to focus on an indistinguishable monster mash, depriving audiences of a single wowzer money shot campaign. And then there’s Sam Worthington – “Avatar” might as well be ancient history to some moviegoers, and the guy’s not really coming off anything successful at this point. Also, the mullet was clearly a mistake.

Opening at around industry expectations is Relativity‘s “Mirror Mirror.” The film is a success parentheses question mark parentheses given that it was able to beat “Snow White and the Huntsman” to theaters and not embarrass itself in the process. The reported $85 million budget suggests the studio figured they had a big hit on their hands, but the film’s presold rights in other territories likely means Relativity will save face. There’s also the matter of this being a kids’ picture, and the one film in the top three that will hold up strongly during Easter weekend.

Surprisingly, the weekend’s most muscular hold belonged to “21 Jump Street.” Within three weeks of its release, the film will likely pass $100 million, which is unheard of for an R-rated action film in March. This is really more of a victory for the four-quadrant concept -- young filmgoers were the key demographic, but older audiences responded to the nostalgia of the title. Add to that the young male appeal of the action, and the females coming for Channing Tatum, plus it’s a super cheap date, and you’ve got yourself a full-on hit. Rounding out the top five was “The Lorax,” which should finish its run a good amount over $200 million, a number it will hit by early next weekend the latest.

It wasn’t enough for the Hollywood vultures – “John Carter” had to take one more painful sucker punch to the gut. Andrew Stanton’s profit-killing sinkhole is bleeding viewers even quicker than Disney can boot it from theaters, and it registered by far the weakest per-screen average in the top ten. In fact, the megabudgeted fantasy film barely stayed above the fifth weekend of Relativity’s docu-actioner “Act of Valor,” which carried a budget that probably would be able to pay for Taylor Kitsch’s hair stylist and seven seconds of perfectly-animated Woola.

The box office has improved in leaps and bounds beyond 2011’s tepid showing, though the spring months have been lean considering the amount of films receiving mainstream releases. As a result, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” catapulted into the top ten after three weeks of limited release. The romantic drama was in only 483 theaters, but the per-screen was fairly wimpy, suggesting this would be the film’s widest expansion. It managed to jump over “A Thousand Words,” which is nonetheless completing its third blockbuster weekend in the top ten, finally out-grossing Eddie Murphy’s last big lead role, “Imagine That.” Imagine that, indeed.

In limited release, Paramount Vantage is still pushing "Jeff, Who Lives At Home" despite tepid early response. The film expanded into 513 theaters, pulling in $675k, though the studio was clearly hoping for a three-day showing within seven figures. It wasn't even able to best the 387 theater showing of heartland drama "October Baby," which sold $779k worth of tickets to audiences that, most likely, don't even know what a movie is. Among holdovers, the more impressive showing was from "The Raid: Redemption," which powered its way from 14 to 46 locations, earning a robust $284k with a per-screen average of $6k with further expansion on the horizon.

With a strong five-screen debut, "Bully" topped the new indie release charts. The documentary grabbed $115k, very strong for an unrated doc, though the film wasn't lacking promotion with the recent MPAA kerfuffle. On the other end of the spectrum, absolutely dismal numbers greeted Clive Owen thriller "Intruders," which popped up at 33 engagements for only $40k worth of tickets sold. There was more success for doc "The Island President," which opened at two locations grabbing $15.6k, while "Turn Me On, Dammit" scored $11.5k at two theaters. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.

1. Los Juegos De Hambre (Lionsgate) - $61.1 million ($251 mil.)
2. Clash Of The Titans 2: Clash Harder (WB) - $34.2 million
3. Mira Mira (Relativity) - $19 million
4. 21 Jump Street (Fox) - $15 million ($93 mil.)
5. Dr. Seuss’ Estate Making Money (Universal) - $8 million ($190 mil.)
6. John Carter Of WalMart Discount Rack (Disney) - $2 million ($66 mil.)
7. Salmon Fishing With The Yes Men (CBS Films) - $1.3 million ($3.2 mil.)
8. Act Of Valor (Relativity) - $1 million ($68 mil.)
9. A Thousand Words (Paramount) - $915k ($17 mil.)
10. Journey 2: This Is Still Playing (WB) - $835k ($98 mil.)

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3 Comments

  • Brian | April 1, 2012 3:18 PMReply

    Battle: Los Angeles was budgeted at 70 million dollars and made 35 million in its opening weekend. How is that "underwhelming"? It also went on to make three times its budget. The prejudicial bias of this article is almost laughable. Keep it up, Internet journalist bigot.

  • Gabe Toro | April 1, 2012 6:08 PM

    The "reported" budget (which has been debated heavily) was paired with a considerable ad budget, with the expectation that the film would do something in the neighborhood of $250-$300 million for a theatrical break-even, not $211 million. Industry analysts suggested the film would open to over $40 million, which were initial projections as late as that Friday, meaning that the heat had significantly stared to fade away as the weekend went on. There's a reason Liebesman is the only one trying to talk "Battle: San Diego" into existence.
    Bigotry at work.

  • Mike | April 1, 2012 2:38 PMReply

    You have Hunger Games' Friday total, it's at $251 now.

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