Weekend Report: 'Catching Fire' Burns Bright, Sets November Record
by Ray Subers
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
November 24, 2013
As expected, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire attracted nearly unprecedented crowds to movie theaters this weekend. The highly-anticipated sequel opened to $158.1 million, which is the best opening ever in the month of November. It's also the sixth-biggest opening on record, and ranks third all-time among 2D-only movies. Catching Fire's $158.1 million opening is a bit above the original Hunger Games, which surprised many when it opened over $152 million last March. It's also ahead of the three Twilight sequels that opened at the same time in November—all three wound up between $138.1 million and $142.8 million. Catching Fire's debut ranks behind The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, all of which had the added benefit of 3D ticket pricing. On Sunday, Lionsgate's estimate for the movie was $161.1 million, which would have set a new 2D-only record. When actuals were tallied, though, Catching Fire fell a bit below The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9 million) and The Dark Knight ($158.4 million).
In a situation like this, it seems like a good time for a reminder about how Sunday morning estimates work. On Sunday morning, studios use revenue figures from Friday and Saturday to estimate a Sunday gross. While that's a fairly straightforward calculation, there's no guarantee of accuracy—it's impossible to perfectly predict how many people are going to show up to the movies on any given day. However, movies are overestimated far more often than they are underestimated, which implies that studios tend to report the higher end of projections in order to get better coverage on Sunday mornings.
In this case, Catching Fire was overestimated by 1.9 percent—a reasonable margin of error—and as a result wound up below the two Dark Knight movies. Regardless of where it ranks, though, this is a massive success for Lionsgate.
Catching Fire's audience was split evenly between those over and under 25 years of age. It was 59 percent female, which is down a bit from the first movie (61 percent). The movie received an "A" CinemaScore, which suggests word-of-mouth will be strong.
Long-term, the movie will absolutely hold better than the Twilight franchise. Still, it's unreasonable to expect it to play as well as its predecessor, and a final tally below $400 million is likely.
While Catching Fire did huge business, the rest of the market was underwhelming. The Top 12 earned $218.4 million, which ranks 11th all-time.
In a distant second place, Thor: The Dark World plummeted 61 percent to $14.1 million. Through 17 days, it has earned $167.9 million; the movie is still on pace to finish above $200 million, but not by much.
After a strong start last weekend, The Best Man Holiday fell 59 percent to $12.5 million. Considering the movie's "A+" CinemaScore, that's a very steep drop. The movie has now earned $50.4 million, and remains on pace for at least $75 million total.
Marketing tried to portray the movie as a heartwarming family comedy, though that clashed with the movie's raunchy premise (a sperm donor spawns 533 children). As a result, the movie seemed too mature for families, but too cheesy for most adults. It doesn't help that the movie was also sold on Vaughn, and audiences seem to be tiring of his schtick over the past few years. Delivery Man is the latest in a string of star-driven movies that have opened below $10 million; others include Runner Runner, Escape Plan and The Counselor.
The movie's audience was evenly split between men and women, and 81 percent was couples. They awarded the movie a "B+" CinemaScore; while that's a fine rating, it doesn't suggest that word-of-mouth is going to save this one. A final total below $30 million is likely at this point. Free Birds rounded out the Top Five with $5.4 million. To date, the animated flick has earned $48.7 million. Last Vegas added $4.4 million to bring its total to $53.9 million. It's now only a few days away from passing The Woman in Black ($54.3 million) to become the highest-grossing movie yet for CBS Films. Dallas Buyers Club expanded to 666 locations and earned a solid $2.69 million. To date, the acclaimed drama has grossed $6.37 million. The Christmas Candle, which is the first movie from former Senator Rick Santorum's production company, expanded to 392 theaters and earned $832,927. That's a fine figure for a movie targeted exclusively at Christian audiences, but also suggests the movie won't earn much more than $5 million or so in theaters.
Disney Animation's Frozen opened exclusively at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood this weekend. The movie earned $243,390, which is the seventh-highest per-theater average ever behind six other Disney animated movies that had similar releases. On Wednesday, Frozen expands to around 3,600 locations.
At four locations, Philomena earned $128,435 this weekend. It expands to around 500 locations on Wednesday. Around-the-World Roundup
Coinciding with its domestic debut, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened in 63 international territories and earned a fantastic $138.4 million ($146.6 million including its first week in Brazil). According to Lionsgate, it doubled the opening of the first Hunger Games in most markets.
The U.K. led the way with $19.8 million (two-and-a-half times as much as the first movie), and was followed by Germany ($12.8 million), Australia ($11.5 million), Russia ($10.8 million), Mexico ($10.7 million) and Spain ($5.6 million). As of Sunday morning, opening weekend figures for China were not yet available.
The movie expands in to France and Italy next weekend, and reaches its final market (Japan) at the end of December. The first Hunger Games earned $283.2 million overseas; based on its earnings so far, Catching Fire seems poised for at least $400 million. Gravity finally opened in China on Tuesday, and its opening week did not disappoint. The movie earned $35.5 million in its first six days, with around 20 percent of that coming from IMAX showings (a record in China). To date, Gravity has earned $331.5 million overseas; with Japan on the way, it should ultimately wind up over $400 million by the end of its run. Thor: The Dark World added $24.8 million this weekend. Its biggest market so far is China, where it's earned $48.3 million. So far, the Avengers follow-up has grossed $381 million overseas, and is on pace for around $450 million total.