The worst-kept secret in show biz is out: The Hunger Games is a hit of record-breaking proportions. From its 10,000 prints at 4,137 locations, the film earned an estimated $155 million this weekend, blowing away the previous March record of $116.1 million. The figure also stands as the third-highest opening of all-time and the single highest debut for a non-sequel. Score one for breathless, wall-to-wall media saturation!
|1||The Hunger Games||$155, 000,000||$155|
|2||21 Jump Street||$21,300,000||$71|
|5||Act of Valor||$2,062,000||$65.9|
|7||A Thousand Words||$1,900,000||$15.4|
Quick! Where were you when you first heard that The Hunger Games was going to be an enormous hit? Was it last summer, when the cast started showing up on magazine covers? Or November, when the first trailer hit? In many ways, the success of The Hunger Games was made inevitable by the number of fans Suzanne Collins counted for her teen-lit trilogy and by the way that those fans were courted at every stage of the filmmaking process. So the only question left to answer was how high would The Hunger Games get?
Earlier this year, when box office watchers imagined a big opening for The Hunger Games we were expecting something rivaling the all-time March record set by Alice in Wonderland in 2010. That film had 150 years of brand recognition behind it, the most bankable star in the business in the lead and a 3D price premium to boot. But as Friday approached and Gamers started lining up, projections for the film’s opening began to shoot higher and higher: $125 million, $142 and then $160 million. By Friday’s midnight launch it all got a little overheated, but damn if it didn’t work!
Just as prevailing expectations that John Carter would flop helped keep audiences away from that film’s premiere, expectations that The Hunger Games was going to be the next giant ‘event’ brought audiences unfamiliar with the books into theatres in droves. Hell if they were going to let another Twilight Saga come and go without claiming a piece of the current cultural zeitgeist, right? And, speaking of that other young-adult phenom, how does The Hunger Games compare? In its first three days it topped the two-highest weekend performers of the Twilight series, New Moon ($142.8 million) and Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($138.1). Those films now rank at number five and six on the all-time opening weekend chart. Of course, we will be revisiting these numbers when Breaking Dawn Part 2 hits in November.
The overwhelming presence of The Hunger Games did not leave much room for other players this weekend. Last weekend’s big hit, 21 Jump Street earned an estimated $21.3 million for a decline of just 41% while Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax edged closer to the $200 million mark on its fourth weekend in theatres. Once again, John Carter had a near monopoly on bad news as it ceded precious territory to The Hunger Games and dropped by another 63%.
The only other new face in the top ten belongs to October Baby, a limited release from the folks behind recent faith-based hits like Fireproof and Courageous. The film, which concerns the spiritually-uplifting subject of abortion, opened briefly last fall and was re-released this weekend in 390 locations.
That big, big number one number victory put this weekend up by 70% overall from the same frame in 2011. And the news is only set to get better for the folks at Lionsgate. Not only has The Hunger Games given the studio its biggest opening of all-time (by far), but the film is also breaking big overseas. Early estimates put the film’s international total at over $59 million in three days. That means that, worldwide, The Hunger Games has already earned over $210 million – well above all but the most crazily-optimistic of forecasts. Tremble, Wrath of the Titans and Mirror, Mirror, tremble. This is one event that isn’t going to wrap up by next weekend.