It’s by far the highest box office opening of the year, but the domestic debut of Mockingjay – Part 1 missed the mark in terms of previous Hunger Games releases. And by a lot, not a little. The penultimate chapter in the series was expected to open with at least $150 million but claimed $123 million from 4,151 locations instead. That’s a 22% drop from Catching Fire, which opened on the same weekend one year ago.
|1.||Mockingjay- Part 1||$123,000,000||$123|
|2.||Big Hero 6||$20,086,000||$135.7|
|4.||Dumb and Dumber To||$13,820,000||$57.4|
|6.||Beyond the Lights||$2,630,000||$10.1|
Full story after the jump.
It feels wrong to be disappointed by a film that has just earned the highest opening of the year… and by a lot, not a little. Just one other film opened to triple digits in 2014: Transformers: Age of Extinction, with just over $100 million. At this point it’s not likely that another film will open above that level so Mockingjay 1 is as good as this year’s box office is going to get. To be clear, grossing above $100 million and setting a new annual record is pretty damn good. Trouble is, both accomplishments have been foregone conclusions for months. Call it the burden of high expectations.
When The Hunger Games opened in 2012, all signs pointed to a strong opening. Still, few people saw just how big it would be right out of the gate. Katniss was originally aiming to beat the $69.6 million domestic launch of 2009’s Twilight but ended up more than doubling that with $152.5 million. That demolished the all-time record for March and remains the highest debut ever for an original (non-sequel or franchise) title. Even The Twilight Saga could not beat that when it closed out its incredibly lucrative run with Breaking Dawn Part 2 in November of 2012. And with Bella and Edward out of the way, The Hunger Games franchise moved to November last year – setting another new record with its $158 million debut. In other words, when it comes to The Hunger Games the bar is set pretty high.
The fact that Mockingjay –Part 1 failed to clear that bar can be blamed on a number of factors. First, the film has failed to inspire the level of critical support that the first two Hunger Games titles earned. Rotten Tomatoes has Mockingjay 1 at 67%, compared to the 84% of the first film and Catching Fire’s 89%. CinemaScore gave Mockingjay – Part 1 an A-, while both earlier films received an A. Second, unlike Catching Fire, Mockingjay 1 is not screening in IMAX locations. With those large format screens still locked down by Interstellar, Mockingjay 1 got no boost (small though it may be) from the higher-priced venues. And finally, severe winter weather may have suppressed turnout in some parts of the country. Back in 2009, an East Coast blizzard was blamed for Avatar’s lower-than-expected weekend opening, which just goes to show that a film’s fate is not fixed in its first three days.
That’s the takeaway here. The fact that Mockingjay – Part 1 failed to open in line with its predecessors in no way signals failure. Many of this year’s biggest hits, including current domestic record-holder Guardians of the Galaxy, remained strong well into their second and third frames. And with no major competition in the next two weeks, Mockingjay 1 should gain momentum with audiences that tend to avoid the “event” of opening weekend.
And even on the off-chance that Mockingjay 1 does not make up ground domestically, it’s almost guaranteed to compensate on the international circuit. Last year, Catching Fire brought in more than $440 million overseas – a number Mockingjay 1 should have no trouble topping. As of Sunday, the film had earned over $190 million worldwide. After all territories report on Monday, that number should be much higher. Of course, we’ll keep you posted with the Thanksgiving box office report next weekend.