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Weekend Wrap-Up: Box Office is Stuffed

March 26th, 2012

The buzz surrounding The Hunger Games became nearly deafening by the time it opened. There were some concerns that the film couldn't possible live up to the hype. However, not only did it live up to the hype, it crushed expectations and set records. Overall the box office pulled in $214 million, which is the ninth best combined weekend total and the best non-Holiday season weekend (Summer blockbuster season and the Thanksgiving to New Years holiday run). This was 93% higher than last weekend and 76% higher than the same weekend last year. Needless to say, 2012 stretched its lead over 2011, and it now sits 19% ahead of last year's pace at $2.41 billion to $2.02 billion. This is behind 2010's running tally of $2.69 billion, but ahead of 2009, which had $2.38 billion at this point of the year, so while we are not quite on a record-breaking pace, it has been a very good year so far.

Expectations for The Hunger Games grew from about a $75 million opening weekend at the beginning of the month to about a $125 million opening just before the weekend. As amazing as it seems, the hype underestimated the box office potential. The film actually started out slower than I thought it would with a $19.735 million, which is only the seventh biggest midnight showing. I was expecting at least $25 million during the midnight showings and just over $125 million in total. In my mind, less than $20 million during the midnight showings meant $100 million over the weekend would be a close call. Oh boy, was I wrong.

After the seventh best midnight showing, The Hunger Games had the fifth best single day at $68 million and the third best opening weekend at $152.54 million. As the weekend went along, The Hunger Games got stronger relative to other major blockbusters. This is amazing and bodes very well for the film's future. Why did this happen? Its reviews certainly helped. Also, being the first film in a possible franchise meant that some fans wanted to wait for the word-of-mouth before paying for a ticket. Finally, there were some who were just trying to avoid crowds. Looking forward, $300 million is now the minimum target for this film, which would be enough to put it in the top 40 on the All Time Chart, while $400 million is not out of the question. We will know more about its final figure by this time next week when its sophomore hold is known. Anything less than a 60% drop-off will result in a final figure at the higher end of the scale.

I would like to talk about the controversy surrounding Lionsgate and the Hunger is not a Game charity. A lot of people were upset that the studio would attack a charity; however, Lionsgate is working with two charities, United Nations’ World Food Program and Feeding America, on the same issue. If Hunger is not a Game turned out to be even a little bit sketchy, it could really hurt Lionsgate's reputation. Since they had the charities from the beginning, they were hardly in the wrong here.

In a distant second place, a really distant second place, we find 21 Jump Street with $20.47 million over the weekend and $70.22 million after two. It is on pace to reach $100 million, although it likely won't get there till after this time next week. This critically acclaimed film should have a sequel in the works relatively soon.

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is also looking to reach a major milestone soon. It added $13.18 million to its running tally, which now sits at $177.41 million. At this point, $200 million is practically inevitable, but it will likely drop out of the top five before it gets there.

John Carter only managed $5.07 million over the weekend for a total of $62.41 million after three. If it had opened with $62.41 million, it would have been disappointing given its production budget. It should reach about $70 million domestically, while it has about double that internationally. That's nowhere near enough to break even.

As expected there was quite a pile-up for fifth place with Act of Valor coming out on top with $2.04 million, just ahead of A Thousand Words ($1.95 million) and Project X ($1.93 million).

One final release reached the top ten, as October Baby opened in eighth place with $1.70 million. Its reviews were terrible and its per theater average doesn't suggest it will expand significantly, but this is still a very good start given its opening theater count.


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Filed under: Weekend Box Office, A Thousand Words, Doctor Seuss' The Lorax, John Carter, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games, Project X, Act of Valor, October Baby