How High Will 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2' Fly?
FRIDAY UPDATE: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 brought in $16 million from Thursday night screenings, which began at 7PM. The film brought in $43 million worldwide, and was #1 in 66 of 68 markets with 19 more territories opening today, including China and Mexico.

By comparison, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 brought in $17 million last year from Thursday night screenings beginning at 8PM before going on to a $121.8 million opening. I'm not yet entirely certain if we can determine a weekend result by the preshow number alone, but Part 1's Thursday served as 14% of its opening number and should Part 2 play similarly it could be looking at an opening around $114.6 million. We'll obviously know more once Friday estimates roll in as Part 1 brought in $55.1 million.

Thursday preshow numbers for Secret in Their Eyes was $170,000 from 1,470 theaters. The film opens wide today in 2,392 theaters.

FORECAST: The next 2015 blockbuster is upon us. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 marks the final installment in the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novels and looks to become the first $100+ million opener since Minions back in July. Joining the pre-Thanksgiving fray is the Secret in Their Eyes remake and The Night Before starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie. Meanwhile, Spectre hopes to maintain some kind of a foothold as audience competition heats up.

Ending any kind of made up suspense, yes, Mockingjay 2 will become 2015's fifth $100+ million opener. Part 1 opened with $121.8 million last year and Part 2 should be in that same vicinity this year. The plus-minus, however, is up for debate.

The first Hunger Games opened with $152.5 million back in 2012 and Catching Fire topped that by six million a year-and-a-half later and still holds the November opening weekend record with $158 million. Mockingjay - Part 1 was unable to match that, falling more than $35 million short in 2014. Why?

Urgency to see Part 1 was clearly down. Catching Fire brought in $25.2 million from Thursday night screenings compared to $17 million for Mockingjay 1. Considering The Hunger Games brought in $19 million from midnight screenings alone in March 2012, those numbers are significant. On that note, Thursday screenings for both Catching Fire and Part 1 began at 8PM while Part 2 is going even earlier with screenings beginning at 7PM, affording as many as eight showings in theaters playing the film on at least two screens. This will likely bolster the film's Thursday number, which should make up 13-15% of its weekend gross for anyone looking for early weekend indicators.

The gap between Catching Fire and Mockingjay 1 is large enough—both in opening weekend and overall cume—to put an end to any assumptions Part 2 might compete with Catching Fire's number. But will it improve on Part 1's opening? What significance, if any, does the fact this is the final installment play? For the sake of comparison, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 opened with $3 million more than Part 1 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 opened with a whopping $44.1 million more than Part 1. While each of these three franchises has its own, unique audience demographics, Hunger Games does hue a bit closer to Twilight than Harry Potter with film critic and CinemaScore trends reflecting that as well.

The smart forecast is to stick close to Mockingjay Part 1's $121 million opening. Part 2 plays against similar competition with both Spectre and The Peanuts Movie in their third weekends, similar to Interstellar and Big Hero 6 last year. Add to that this is the final installment, Thursday screenings are kicking off a little earlier and Part 2 is also a shade better than the monotony of Part 1. All factors considered, I'm predicting a $127.7 million opening.

Second position should belong to The Night Before. This is the first R-rated comedy since American Ultra in August and, before that, Vacation at the end of July. Neither of those films, however, proved to be the best 2015 had to offer in the genre as Spy and Trainwreck both grossed over $110 million domestically and Get Hard topped $90 million. Any chance The Night Before joins those ranks?

When it comes to direct comparisons we're coming up a bit short. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas would seem to be our best bet as it too opened in November and opened with $12.9 million in 2011. Then you take into consideration the likes of This is the End, which opened with $20.7 million against Man of Steel in 2013, and the $49 million opening Neighbors enjoyed in 2014. Both films went on to make over $100 million domestically, with Neighbors topping $150 million and has a sequel set for 2016.

I'd be remiss to overlook The Interview, which made headlines for all the wrong reasons last year. I'm not sure, however, if it bears any significance when it comes to predicting how well The Night Before will perform. Something could be said of the fact that, along with the box office disappointment Steve Jobs, The Interview was the last film to star Seth Rogen and his Night Before co-stars aren't exactly big box office draws. Joseph Gordon-Levitt recently saw The Walk stumble and fall and Anthony Mackie hasn't enjoyed much success outside of the Marvel films, even though Love the Coopers did outperform predictions last weekend.

Night Before director Jonathan Levine previously teamed with Rogen and Levitt on 50/50, which enjoyed a modest performance in 2011, but it was Levine's 2013 zombie comedy, Warm Bodies, that serves as his biggest success. Neither serve much value when it comes to predicting Night Before other than to say the success of the film may rely on how well Levine's comedic style blends with Rogen's penchant for stoner humor. Both have proved successful in the past and with Sony ushering Night Before into 2,960 theaters I'm expecting an opening around $17.7 million with the chance at a long run depending on how well Universal's Krampus performs at the beginning of December.

The week's other new wide release is the remake of the 2010 Best Foreign Language Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes. Billy Ray wrote the script and makes it only his third directorial feature on the heels of 2007's Breach and Shattered Glass before that. Ray recently scripted the first Hunger Games and Captain Phillips, the latter of which earned him an Oscar nomination and he's secured a cast of Oscar alums for this one. Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts along with Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor headline this twisty thriller that finds itself in a bit of a strange spot.

Adult audiences have a lot to consider right now as they not only have both Spectre and Mockingjay delivering the action and adventure, but there is the more dramatic fair such as Spotlight, Bridge of Spies and The 33 jockeying for the over-35 eyeballs. Where does Secret in Their Eyes fit in?

The worst thing going for the film is the fact it hasn't been well received by critics. Spotlight (which expands into 598 theaters this weekend), Bridge of Spies and even The 33 have received positive to absolutely glowing reviews from critics. Additionally, Spotlight has performed very well in limited release and Bridge of Spies has only dropped over 30% once in its five weeks in release. The cast should bring a little bit of heat to this release, but don't forget Kidman's Before I Go To Sleep managed a mere $1.8 million from nearly 2,000 theaters last year and Roberts hasn't proven to be much of an audience draw as of late either. The prediction... $6.9 million from 2,392 theaters for a $2,900 per theater average.

I already brought up Spotlight, which figures to be a strong Oscar contender, and after falling just outside of the top ten at number 12 last weekend, it will find a spot among the ranks this weekend. Adding 537 theaters for a total of 598, I'm expecting it to finish somewhere around a 300% jump for a $5.4 million weekend.

Also expanding further this weekend is Brooklyn, which I finally saw this week and it's excellent. The Saoirse Ronan starrer has done well in its first two weeks of limited release and will expand to 111 theaters this weekend where it could compete for a spot in the top ten. I have it just on the outskirts with $2 million, but buzz is building.

One interesting title to keep an eye on is Suffragette, which hasn't necessarily performed all that well so far, but in the past few days has slowly climbed the daily ranks, finishing in the top ten on Wednesday. Focus is adding 21 more theaters this weekend and I'm not saying it's going to finally break out, but a stronger-than-expected performance could give back a little life to this one-time Oscar hopeful.

Speaking of Oscar contenders, The Weinstein Co. brings Carol to four theaters this weekend where the Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara starrer will hope to do some damage. The film premiered in Cannes to strong reviews as well as the Queer Palm award and a Best Actress award for Mara, which she shared with Emmanuelle Bercot (Mon roi). Strong reviews and performances at several film festivals leading up to this weekend's release all but guarantee its place at the Oscar table, but let's see how it does in the hands of the moviegoing audience.

Legend starring Tom Hardy as the twin gangsters Ronald and Reggie Kray is also getting a limited, four theater release, which might seem a strange move given the success of Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this year, but the decision is not without reason. Unfortunately, the film isn't all that good and unless you're going for Hardy's performance (which is the lone highlight) you aren't likely to walk away all that impressed. The limited roll out suggests Universal agrees and they aren't going too hard next weekend either, expanding only to 39 theaters.

Last weekend, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's By the Sea sunk like a stone in its ten theater release, tallying on $9,625 per theater. This weekend Universal brings it to 116 more theaters and I'm not expecting much of a jump.

Predictions for this weekend are below.

  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (4,175 theaters) - $127,337,500
  • The Night Before (2,960 theaters) - $17,760,000
  • Spectre (3,659 theaters) - $15,155,578
  • The Peanuts Movie (3,671 theaters) - $12,488,742
  • Secret in Their Eyes (2,392 theaters) - $6,936,800
  • Spotlight (598 theaters) - $5,414,292
  • Love the Coopers (2,603 theaters) - $4,326,186
  • The Martian (2,086 theaters) - $3,692,220
  • Bridge of Spies (1,532 theaters) - $2,903,140
  • The 33 (2,452 theaters) - $2,604,024

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