Weekend Report: “Mockingjay” Soars But Falls Short of Predecessors

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I’m at a bit of a crossroads here. I feel as though I can’t in good faith call a film that made $100M in one weekend disappointing, but it sure feels that way.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 ended the three and a half year franchise, but it didn’t have the catastrophic impact on the box office that many predicted that it did. The film opened with $101M, a full $20M off from Mockingjay Part 1 and a whopping $57M off from Catching Fire. That’s a pretty alarming dropoff for a franchise that, not too long ago, was the top film of the year two years in a row. Even though Mockingjay Part 1 had a drop off from its predecessor, that was expected. Even despite that, it was still the highest grossing film of 2014. However, Mockingjay Part 2 doesn’t even have a shot at cracking the top 5 this year – the best it can hope for is a total gross of around $270M. For reference, Inside OutMinionsJurassic WorldAvengers: Age of Ultron and Furious 7 have all topped the $300M mark and then some. That’s a very sharp drop not only in box office numbers but in terms of general popularity. Clearly the Part 1 and Part 2 gimmick was a one time success – it managed to turn the Harry Potter finale into much more of an event film, and its summer release date didn’t hurt. That film grossed a whopping $44M more in its opening weekend alone, followed by a $90M domestic increase. After that, The Hobbit, Twilight, and now Divergent all pulling the same trick however, audiences are catching on. The Harry Potter franchise seemed at least partially justified in doing that, but for The Hunger Games to pull it off just seemed a bit tacky.

This isn’t the only reason, however. The cultural impact of of the franchise has been decidedly extinguished in the past two years. After the actual games ended, a lot of people simply lost interest, and the fanbase wasn’t big enough to net a much higher debut for the finale. In addition to this, Mockingjay is widely regarded as the worst book in the series by fans, who may have just decided that they felt as though they would simply jump ship on the aging franchise. Don’t feel too bad for Lionsgate, this film is still going to make a ton of profit. Mockingjay Part 1 grossed $755M worldwide, and this installment will easily top $600M. It just seems frustrating, as if it was released as a one film finale while the iron was still hot, Lionsgate could’ve seriously been looking at one of the highest 2D openings ever – perhaps $170M or more. Alas, we will never know.

In second place, Spectre fell 57% in its third weekend to $14.6M. That isn’t overly surprising given that it lost many of its Large Format and IMAX screens this weekend, and with the tough competition. The film has grossed $153M domestically so far, and still has a chance at $200M.

In third place, The Peanuts Movie fell 47% down to $12.8M. That’s a little disappointing, as it seemed as though it would be able to balance out before The Good Dinosaur likely takes a big chunk out of it next weekend.

The Night Before opened to a soft $10.1M in fourth place. That’s far below This is The End ($20M weekend, $33M five day) which is particuarly bad given that This is The End was a much more bizarre, satirical film with actors playing themselves, something that wouldn’t typically appeal to mainstream audiences. Word of mouth has been fairly solid, with many citing the multiple laugh-out-loud moments in the film. Given the older audience that doesn’t typically rush out on opening weekend, this may be able to hold on and gross around $35M domestic.

The final new wide release was The Secret in Their Eyes, a remake of the 2009 Argentinian film of the same name, grossed a soft $6.6M in its opening weekend. For a poorly reviewed, PG-13 crime drama released around the holidays, it couldn’t realistically expect much better. The film will likely fall off the map very quickly with the mountains of competition coming soon.

Spotlight expanded into 598 theaters and grossed a solid $3.4M, giving it a per theater average of $6K. Considering the very heavy subject material, this was never going to be a massive breakout. Still, with major Oscar contendors and the very controversial subject, it still has a chance at a solid domestic gross. Obviously interest is there, now its just up to distributor Open Road to make sure it gets the release and marketing it needs to be a hit.

In the limited release spectrum, Carol was obviously the big hit of the weekend. In just four theaters, the film grossed an excellent $248K, for a per theater average of $62K. That’s one of the highest limited releases of the year, behind only a few titles such as Sicario and the completely unpredictably and unexplainably high Steve Jobs. Whether or not this will get a wide release is still up in the air, as it doesn’t seem like something that would play well to mainstream audiences. It does have a 95% on Metacritic, making it one of the best reviewed films of the year, and the Weinstein Company is likely going to take this arthouse-cred in order to gross as much as they can.

Legend was less impressive. It grossed around $80K from 4 theaters. That $20K per theater average is still better than expected, but its poor reviews and more action oriented premise makes it a bit of a head scratcher as to why it was a limited arthouse release as opposed to a normal wide release. The film will likely get buried under a pile of more appealing options, and ultimately be one of the forgotten films of the season.

Brooklyn was also noticeable, with a $1.15M expansion from 111 theaters, giving it a per theater average of $10.3K. That’s a solid gross for the PG-13 romance, which currently has a very impressive 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, with over 130 total reviews. The film will likely receive some Oscar buzz and gross over $10M domestically.

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