hungergamesfeature

Everybody’s Heard About The Bird… But What About This Week’s Other Releases?

BOX OFFICE BRASSERIE: MOVIE NEWS FOR MOVIE LOVERS

After a quick fall from box office grace last weekend, Hollywood is back in the spirit of giving audiences what they want with a trio of new wide releases dropping into theaters including “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 2,” Seth Rogen’s balls-to-the-walls holiday comedy “The Night Before,” and STX’s thriller “Secret in Their Eyes.”

Only four films have debuted domestically with more than $100M+ in 2015—“Jurassic World,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Furious 7,” and “Minions”—and this weekend “Mockingjay Pt. 2” will be joining them as Lionsgate’s $2.3B-grossing YA franchise wraps up, just four years after it began.

That will break the record shared by 2010 and 2012 both which had four films debut domestically with $100M+…with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” destined to be the 6th when it opens December 18.

But for now, back to a galaxy much, much closer: Panem. Releasing a new installment every year since 2012, “Hunger Games” finally felt the pinch with “Part 1,” as the North American opening was down $37M from the series high, “Catching Fire” which burned up the box office with a scorching $158M debut.

The major problem I think most fans had with the last installment was that it was really a glorified trailer for “Part 2.” Be that as it may, it grossed $755M worldwide, so it’s also the highest-grossing trailer of all-time.

Splitting final installments of YA adaptations in half has always been a smart move financially for studios, as “Harry Potter” raked in an additional $1.3B with its final flick, and “Twilight” scored $829M. It’s really the “Part 1” which is the “bonus” gross, if you will, though, as the core of the story usually doesn’t support a film’s structure–not one that stands on its own, anyway.

That’s never been truer than Suzanne Collins’ series, whose third and final chapter is relatively sparse in terms of content. That’s why the split felt like exactly what it was: a cash grab.

When you crunch the numbers, passing up the $755M “Part 1” ending up hauling in globally would have been an idiotic move monetarily for Lionsgate, which, outside of “Hunger Games” and “The Divergent Series,” has a cupboard that is pretty bare. Uh, “Gods of Egypt?” More on that Monday or Tuesday.

That’s the real story here. What will Lionsgate do next? Nothing on their future slate says they have anything like “The Hunger Games,” nor many blockbuster prospects for that matter.

Even though “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has stolen all the media hype and pre-ticket sales chatter once garnered by “The Hunger Games,”  debuting with $130M+ this weekend should quiet the critics. “Mockingjay Pt. 2,” which cost $125M, will likely make its budget back opening weekend as it debuts in 4,000+ theaters and will probably end up making over $800M+ worldwide. Pretty solid.

And while Jennifer Lawrence probably won’t be involved…I seriously doubt this is the last we’ll see of this franchise. The almighty dollar is just too irresistible.

Remember a year ago when all hell was breaking lose between theater owners and studios with the botched release of Seth Rogen’s “The Interview?”

The North Koreans won that victory, as a studio fell to its knees, crippled by the Sony hack that left the industry stunned. “The Interview” became the sacrificial lamb and went with a VOD release, while Sony truncated their theatrical plans.

Sony’s $40M film ended up grossing just $6M in theaters, but upwards of $40M from streaming sources and rentals. What the film really did was give us some insight as to what a major film could do in online markets as a simultaneous release.

The result was very one-sided, as most people opted to rent it for $5.99 (which I contend was much, much too low of a pricing point) and eschewed theaters.

Which is why I have to hand it to Sony for marketing “The Night Before” as: “From the people who almost brought you ‘The Interview.’” Classic. Nice to see they have a sense of humor about all this. How can you not, though, as it was a supremely strange story?

“The Night Before” will likely latch onto the holiday spirit of mass consumerism this weekend, and as the only R-rated comedy set for wide release until Tina Fey’s “Sisters” opens in late December, it may just be the gift that keeps giving for Sony.

“The Night Before” looks like a hybrid strain of “Pineapple Express” and “Neighbors” which debuted with $23M and $49M respectively. The hoopla of “Mockingjay Pt. 2” might truncate its debut, but inhaling upwards of $20M or so would have Sony jingle-jangling in their knickers as they head into Thanksgiving break.

Deja vu. Hey, remember in the mid-90s when Julia Roberts was commanding $20M a picture? Ironically, that’s the budget of her latest feature, STX’s remake of the Oscar-winning Argentine film of the same name, which won Best Foreign Film in 2009.

Doubtful this PG-13 take on it, directed by Billy Ray (writer of “The Hunger Games,” “Captain Phillips”), has the same ambitions, but with the success of “The Gift” earlier this year, STX has proven to be, if anything else, thrifty.

Roberts is joined by Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Alfred Molina—quite the cast, no doubt, however there isn’t much buzz on this as it enters 2,400+ theaters this weekend.

Still, STX proved it’s not how you start, but how you finish, as this summer’s thriller, “The Gift,” debuted with $11M and went on to gross $43M—all on a budget of $5M. This one will have to have legs that are a bit longer than that, considering the budget is a bit steeper, but has a chance, as, again, sometimes being the right genre of film at the right time is all it takes.

Expect a slow burn debut of around $8M this weekend, but the real test will be how it holds up over Thanksgiving.

In exclusive release, Todd Haynes’ “Carol” returns him to a place he seems to enjoy, the 1950s (where “Far From Heaven” with Julianne Moore was set), as Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara enter a risqué relationship.

Looks gorgeous, as you can imagine, as Weinstein opens the R-rated romantic drama in four theaters, and will no doubt expand its release in the hopes of awards glory throughout the holiday season.

Also debuting exclusively is Universal’s “Legend,” starring Tom Hardy as two of the most notorious gangsters in Britain during the 1960s, twin brothers Reggie and Ronnie Kray.

Brian Helgeland (“42,” “A Knight’s Tale”) is at the helm, so you know it will be a quality film, however as it is running over two hours, the R-rated crime biography will have to really attract rave reviews to stay relevant and warrant a wide release.

Hopefully it won’t send out an S.O.S, like “By the Sea” did last weekend. Universal had a disastrous opening in limited release as Angelina Jolie’s film, starring her and her hubby, Brad Pitt, washed up just $96,250 in 10 theaters–$9,625 per.

That’s really poor when you stack it up to a film like “Spotlight” which debuted with $59,002 per, or even Fox Searchlight’s “Brooklyn” which began its journey with $37,456 per.

These types of staggered releases are really just the studios dipping their feet in the water to see how hot or cold their property is. “By the Sea” turned out to be ice cold—especially when you consider Jolie and Pitt are two of the most recognizable stars in the world—and although the R-rated marital drama is scheduled for 120+ theaters this weekend, that’s probably as wide as it will go.

Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” expands into wide release this weekend and should make a little noise as it grossed $1.3M last weekend on just 61 screens.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

  1. HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PT. 1 – $134M
  2. THE NIGHT BEFORE – $19M
  3. SPECTRE – $18.5M
  4. THE PEANUTS MOVIE – $15M
  5. SECRET IN THEIR EYES – $10M

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Paramount’s “Zoolander 2” (Feb. 12, 2016)

Hey, if the crew from “Anchorman” can return a decade after first donning the polyester, no doubt Derek Zoolander can make it happen 15 years after he and Hansel  strutted their stuff on the catwalk. Let’s just not get Right Said Fred involved, okay?

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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“Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2″ Poster Image Courtesy of Lionsgate; Poster Design by LA