The Hunger Games Sprints Past $250 Million in Weekend Box Office Victory

The Hunger Games Sprints Past $250 Million in Weekend Box Office VictoryLionsgate’s unstoppable The Hunger Games remained the top film in North America this past weekend, easily besting newcomers Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror while smashing through the $250 million mark. Overall, the box office continued its winning ways in 2012 with another strong performance.

The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, saw its winning streak continue Friday through Sunday with $61.1 million from 4,137 theaters, despite dropping 60% from its incredible opening weekend. After ten days, Katniss and company have earned a phenomenal $251 million domestically and $113 million overseas, totaling $364 million worldwide. The film should surpass $500 million in worldwide ticket sales before heading off to Blu-ray and DVD.

When an event movie like The Hunger Games pulls in the type of numbers it did last weekend, the drop off percentage in its sophomore session is usually a pretty steep one at around 55-70%. That percentage could be even more if a film loses all of its high priced IMAX screens, as The Hunger Games did this weekend.

But much like its clever ass-kicking protagonist, The Hunger Games seems to be defying the odds. Weekday business has been remarkably strong given the time of the year, and the lesser-than-anticipated 59.5% estimated drop in business is a telltale sign that positive word-of-mouth is reaching those outside of the fan base.

Two years ago, a big-budget remake of the 1981 Greek Mythology adventure Clash of the Titans debuted to a huge $61 million, en route to a final domestic tally of $162 million. While Clash was a sizable hit, it was hardly anyone’s idea of quality entertainment, and the subpar rushed 3D conversion made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Money talks in Hollywood, and the success of Clash and its wretched 3D gave Warner the idea that people were eager for more. The $34.2 million opening for Wrath of the Titans on 3,545 screens dictates otherwise.

Sequels usually open to similar if not bigger numbers than their predecessor. Wrath of the Titans opened to almost less than half of what Clash opened to in 2010. While reviewers did concede that Wrath was marginally better than Clash, they still tore the movie a new one via a 24% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ticket buyers polled by CinemaScore were a bit kinder to the film, giving it a “B+” rating.

Wrath may be looking at a mild domestic haul somewhere in the neighborhood of $75-80 million, well below the movie’s reported $150 million production before advertising. Far more encouraging for the studio was the movie’s overseas debut, which scored a big $78 million. As with the recent John Carter and latest Pirates of the Caribbean entry, the overseas markets will be where Wrath of the Titans will earn its big bucks.

In third place was the weekend’s other underwhelming debut, the family comedy Mirror Mirror. Relativity’s $85 million Snow White spoof starring Julia Roberts (remember her?) as the Wicked Queen (typecasting?) opened on 3,603 screens, but could only muster an estimated $19 million in ticket sales. Like Titans, critics didn’t care much for this comedic take on the fairy tale (50% approval on Rotten Tomatoes), but viewers thought what they saw was okay in giving the film a “B+” CinemaScore rating.

In fourth place and easing a mere 27% was Sony’s R-rated comedy hit, 21 Jump Street. The Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum flick earned an estimated $15 million in its third weekend of release. To date, it has earned a great $92 million and could be looking at a final haul of $120 million.

In fifth place was another Spring smash, Universal’s Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. The animated 3D hit eased only 39% from last weekend to earn an estimated $8 million this weekend. It has earned $190 million this far and could finish its run around the $215-220 million domestic mark.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. John Carter (Disney) $2 million (-60.5%) $66.2 million to date
7. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (CBS Films) $1.274 million (New to the top ten) $3.1 million
8. Act of Valor (Relativity) $1 million (-51%) $67.7 million
9. A Thousand Words (Paramount) $915,000 (-53%) $16.5 million
10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner/New Line) $835,000 (-38.5%) $98.4 million

On Wednesday, Paramount’s 3D version of James Cameron’s Titanic sets sail on movie screens, while Friday sees the opening of the Universal sequel American Reunion. Once again, The Hunger Games is the odds-on favorite to walk away on top.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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