Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 failed to meet expectations in its Thursday night debut at the North American box office as the northern portion of the country continued to dig out from extensive snow storms. The slow start immediately impacted Lionsgate’s stock and cast major doubt on whether Mockingjay can reach the same heights that the original The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ascended to in their opening weekends.
With Jennifer Lawrence back as unsung hero Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 earned $17 million on Thursday night from showings that began at 8pm. To put those numbers in perspective, The Hunger Games earned $19.7 from its Thursday night showings while Catching Fire did just that with a $25 million opening night bow.
There were a number of factors working against Mockingjay – Part 1 headed into last night’s showings on top of inclement weather. First, the film was not screened at any IMAX venues as those are still reserved for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Not banking the extra ticket surcharges from IMAX screens took a small bite out of the film’s earnings.
Mockingjay – Part 1 is the first-half of a two-part finale, which by the nature of two-part films makes the back half more appealing to moviegoers. This film is also the first in the series that doesn’t feature actual “Hunger Games” or a definitive story with a beginning and an end, so Lionsgate was unable to utilize their effective marketing campaign of teasing up until the beginning of the games and forcing moviegoers to plunk down their hard cash to see how the games played out.
Critics also haven’t been too kind to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 with a 68 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The Hunger Games scored 84 percent, while Catching Fire upped the ante to 89 percent.
News of the $17 million opening hit the wire shortly before the stock market opened on Friday morning. While the rest of the stock market soared on news out of Europe and China, Lionsgate’s stock (LGF) sunk to a 5.03% loss on the day.
Initial projections for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 pegged an opening weekend anywhere between $150 and $160 million, especially considering each of the first two films topped $150 million and no new competition shared the November 21 release date. With only $17 million earned Thursday night, $140 million seems like a stretch unless fans turn out in droves and get their friends to follow suit.