Weekend Box Office: 'The Hunger Games' Rules the Roost, 'American Reunion' Disappoints

Box Office
by Brian Fuson
April 8, 2012 1:07 PM
1 Comment
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Lionsgate

Lionsgates’ “The Hunger Games” held the top spot at the boxoffice for the third consecutive weekend, taking in an estimated $33.5 million while slipping a slim 43%.  “Hunger Games” is the first film since Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1” to hold the top spot for three consecutive sessions.

Gary Ross's sci-fi actioner, starring Jennifer Lawrence and based on the first book of a bestselling trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, reached another milestone at the boxoffice this weekend as the domestic total to date shot past the $300 million mark on Sunday, hitting a sterling $302.8 million.

The weekend’s two new challengers failed to mount much of a challenge as both Universal’s “American Reunion” and Paramount’s “Titanic 3D” turned in weaker than projected openings.  “Reunion” took the second spot with an estimated $21.47 million, followed by “Titanic 3D” with an estimated $17.35 million weekend, and $25.7 since its release on Wednesday. Some of those disappointing numbers have to do with Easter, but it’s not the whole story as the holiday seemed to have little effect on moviegoers' appetite for “Hunger Games.”

Easter weekend traditionally has its box office ups and downs, as Fridays are usually better than the norm, as people take off work and many schools and offices are closed. But Sundays tend to be slower, due to Easter observations. Overall it proved to be another up weekend at the boxoffice in North America as the total for all films will be around $124 million, an increase of nearly 7% from the comparable frame last year.

Heading into the weekend “Reunion” was expected to slice around $25 million or more out of the weekend, but the final estimate ended up far short of the opening for the last film in the series, “American Wedding,” which debuted with $33.4 million back in 2003.  As it turns out it was the third lowest debut of the franchise's four films, besting only the original “American Pie’s” $18.7 million opening in 1999.

With such a low-grossing opening weekend, “Reunion” will most likely have the ill-fated distinction of becoming the first film in the franchise that fails to hit the $100 million mark at the domestic boxoffice. The R-rated “Reunion” was co financed with Relativity and had a production budget of around $50 million. With such a disappointing domestic debut, “Reunion” will have to look to international revenue to break even. UPDATE:  “Reunion” generated an estimated $19.3 million from 28 international territories, bringing its worldwide cume to $40.8 million, with 30 more to come, including major markets Germany, France, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom.

Jon Hurwitz helmed the latest film in the series, and Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Eugene Levy, Alyson Hannigan and Tara Reid star as the same gang from the first film, who encounter each other again at a high school reunion.

The film’s appeal skewed a bit older, with 61% more than 25 years of age, and male (51%), which means it picked up a lot of the series' early fans but not too many new ones. Reviews registered a weak 44% fresh grade from RottenTomatoes. So “Reunion” will have to earn superb word of mouth from audiences, which gave it a B+ CinemaScore, in order to make up lost ground.

The debut for James Cameron's “Titanic 3D” was less than hoped, in fact, the $17.35 million weekend was one of the lowest openings among older films that have been retrofitted for re-release in 3D.  Disney’s “The Lion King 3D” remains the king of those films – it was released in September 2011, opened with $30.2 million and grossed $94 million by the end of its run, while Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace 3D” was released last February, debuted with $22.5 million and took in $43 million.

But “Titanic 3D’s” three hour-plus running time (194 minutes) makes it difficult to post huge numbers as there are fewer showings that can be fit into a day – both “Lion King” and “Phantom Menace” had significantly shorter running times.

“Titanic 3D” did reach an estimated $25.7 million by the end of the weekend, but it took five days to get there.  Most observers thought the film would take in around $25 million or more for the weekend alone. “Titanic 3D” cost $18 million to convert to 3D, which was split between Paramount and Fox, the latter of which is distributing the film internationally.

The PG-13 rated “Titanic 3D” stars Leonardo DeCaprio and Kate Winslet and as before, young females (under 25) were the dominant segment.  Repeat and multiple viewings were the reason the gross on the film’s original release rose to such staggering heights.  Critics gave the film a sturdy 87% positive grade at RottenTomatoes.

The release was timed to the 100th anniversary of the ship setting sail, and it been almost 15 years since original film’s release.  “Titanic” debuted in 1997 and grossed a record $1.8 billion worldwide during its first release, a record that was unbeaten until another Cameron film, 2009’s fantasy actioner “Avatar” hit theaters.

It remains to be seen, but the release of “Titanic 3D” could run a course similar to the original films trajectory.  With its long running time and multiple views, the original film opened modestly, but just kept on plugging away at the boxoffice with very low drops from week to week. In fact, the original “Titanic” was the number one film at the boxoffice for 15 consecutive weekends – a record that still stands to this day.  It also picked up 11 Academy Awards.

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