The Hunger Games Gobbles Up the Competition at the Box Office

Scott breaks down the success of the Hunger Games: Catching Fire while also reviewing how the limited release films fared.  Speaking of limited releases, 12 Years a Slave has expanded itself all the way to Brantford, so if you live in my hometown then you owe it to yourself to go see this great movie.  If you don't live in Brantford, there is a great chance it has expanded somewhere close to your home.


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire came out of the gates very strong this past weekend and set an all-time record for the best November opening weekend by taking in $161 million. The follow up to the 2012 franchise opener, The Hunger Games, also set a record for the best opening weekend on a holiday, as well as becoming the fourth best opening weekend of all time and having the fourth best per theatre average for a wide release ($38,698).

While it saw an increase of only 6% over the opening weekend of the first movie, the real improvement is in how it is faring overseas. The Hunger Games brought in a tremendous $408 million domestically, but only $276 million from international markets. While I said, ‘only $276 million’ I mean that in comparison to the domestic tally, which is usually lower than the international for blockbusters. This will not be the case with Catching Fire, which has already brought in $146.6 million from 63 international markets. The numbers from these markets are showing massive increases over the performance of the first movie, including a $19 million UK opening where the original opened to $7.7 million. In Russia, the opening weekend of $11 million has almost caught the cumulative total of $13 million for the first film. These are the important numbers that the studios will be watching, as the international market is what has the power to take this franchise to billion dollar status.

When it opened on Thursday night, it did an incredible $25 million, a number that is especially impressive when compared to Iron Man 3’s $15 million Thursday night numbers. While it started out very strongly, it was followed by a Friday that had some outlets predicting that it would not end up making as much as the opening of the first film. However, that all turned around when it had the third best Saturday gross in history, taking in $53 million. The audience breakdown of this film is an even split in the age demographic, so it will be interesting to see if the presence of the older audience (who do not always rush out first week) will help it from suffering a massive drop next week.

As well, Vince Vaughn had a film coming out in Delivery Man, which made $8.1 million and landed in fourth place in the box office. This debut shows that audiences are not finding Vaughn to be the draw that he perhaps once was, as his opening weekend numbers for his last three movies have seen two $17 million openings and a $12 million opening. While movies with Vaughn as a lead actor have made over one billion dollars domestically, it appears that he may have a hard time front-manning a film to success. Luckily for the film, it has a very modest budget of $26 million.

Opening in one theatre this weekend was Disney’s Frozen, a film that has some Oscar talk around it for best animated picture. In the one theatre it pulled in $238 thousand, which lands it in seventh place for all-time best per theatre average openings. Next weekend it will be expanding nationwide, and it should see great success based off of the terrific opening and the great critical reception it is gaining.

Also opening this weekend in limited release was Philomena, a movie about a woman who searches for the child she had to abandon as a teenager. It stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and has become an Oscar hopeful for The Weinstein Company. If Dench’s performance throughout the film is as good as it is in the trailers, she is sure to be in serious contention for a nomination. It opened in four theatres this weekend and took in a per theatre average of $33,000.

Meanwhile, there were some other interesting numbers of note that have caught my attention. The Best Man Holiday, which suffered a large decline of 58% from its opening weekend, was still able to stay relevant as it landed in third place, bringing in $12 million and having a very strong per theatre average of $6,120. Dallas Buyers Club landed in tenth spot in the box office by bringing in $2.7 million from 666 locations as it tries to make its case for further expansion.

Unfortunately for Nebraska (the comedy directed by Alexander Payne and starring Bruce Dern), this weekend was not so good for it. After having a successful opening weekend which saw a per theatre average of $35,100, it expanded from four theatres to 28 and saw its average drop a tremendous 66% down to $12,571. This decrease is similar to that suffered by All is Lost starring Robert Redford (with much Oscar talk around his performance), which now looks like it will not expand past where it presently sits at 483 theatres. However a drop like that is not necessarily a death sentence, as 12 Years a Slave dropped 64% after its opening weekend but was able to sustain better once it began expanding.