March 26, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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So what just happened, and what’s likely to happen next?  Here’s a quick look at what’s new in Panem:
FINAL NUMBERS:  It turns out THE HUNGER GAMES wasn’t such a hit after all, earning a measly $152.5M in its first 3 days of release, instead of the estimated $155M.  Actually the discrepancy was pretty much meaningless:  Hunger Games still has the 3rd highest opening in movie history (and the highest ever for a non-sequel), more than $1M above #4 (Spider-Man 3)  Its Sunday, however, is now the 7th highest of all time rather than the 4th (#4-7 are bunched within $825K of one another).  No tears are being shed at Lionsgate.

3 SEQUELS:  You can forget all the nonsense about Lionsgate “considering” splitting the final Hunger Games novel into 2 films.  As with Harry Potter and Twilight before it, an additional movie means hundreds of millions of dollars in extra profit, and that means the only question at Lionsgate is whether there’s any way to slice Mockingjay, the final book, into quarters.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS:  Lionsgate doesn’t have a worldwide distribution apparatus, so it sold off the rights to Hunger Games in most overseas territories, earning a smaller cut from the subdistributors’ revenues.  This hedged the studio’s risk, but also, in the case of a blockbuster, limited its upside.  While it doesn’t look as though the first Hunger Games will be as successful overseas as it will be here, it will still make plenty of money, and the likelihood is that the franchise, like Twilight, will become increasingly valuable internationally as the series continues (the first Twilight made $200M overseas, while Breaking Dawn Part 1 made $423M, which was over $100M more than it grossed in the US).  Look for Lionsgate to either enter into a partnership with a major distributor or adjust the deals it has in place.
RIP-OFFS:  Oh, they’re coming.  Word is that CW already has a Hunger Games-ish pilot for consideration as a possible fall series, and vampires may start to be elbowed out of pop culture by teen gladiators.  Every studio and network will be trying to capitalize on this new craze–and the vast majority of them will fail horribly.
BOXOFFICE TO COME:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 fell 72% in Weekend 2, and ended up with a US gross only 2.25x its opening weekend.  The Dark Knight, on the other hand, fell only 53% and had a multiple of 3.4, spectacular considering the size of its start.  Between them lies a $150M spread.   Hunger Games won’t be able to compete with either of those pictures in terms of midweek gross, because they had the advantage of summer openings with young audiences out of school.  On the other hand, while Deathly Hallows and Dark Knight had to deal with the weekly arrival of high-profile summer movie competition, Hunger Games will have several weeks almost to itself, with Wrath of the Titans and some comedies the biggest foes in sight until The Avengers opens on May 4.  That may slow the burn-out, if word-of-mouth continues to be strong.
X MEN SECOND CLASS:  Fox owns a very valuable option on Jennifer Lawrence’s services in a sequel to X Men:  First Class.  That movie was only moderately successful, and the studio had opted to sustain the franchise with a new Hugh Jackman Wolverine picture.  But expect the First Class sequel to be supercharged into development now.
OTHER THAN THAT, JENNIFER LAWRENCE CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL SHE WANTS:  Lawrence is brilliantly talented, beautiful, and the first actress in history to be the solo star of a mega-franchise (sorry:  Kristen Stewart is one of a trio of stars, and Alien can’t really be called a mega-franchise when it only yielded 2 genuine hits).  Every script remotely suitable for her age (and plenty that aren’t) will be heading for her agent.  She’ll be busy for the next few years between Hunger Games and X Men shoots, but hiatuses will allow for some work in other directions, whether to maintain her indie cred (she’ll next be seen–not counting an on-the-shelf horror flick that’s being unearthed–in David O. Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook) or try a comedy.
CONTROVERSY:  Expect Hunger Games to be cited by every opportunistic politician, pundit and random person with a camera in front of them who wants to rail about teen violence, the ratings system, reality television, sports injuries, government programs, and the right to bear arms.  At least.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."