March 13, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Normally the universe of pop culture only allows for one giant event at a time, and not accidentally–they stay out of each other’s way.  You won’t find any major movies opening the same day as The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises, and the other networks barely program against the Super Bowl or American Idol‘s season finale.  
But movies aren’t TV, and the young audience isn’t the older one.  (And the vast audience isn’t the comparatively tiny one.)  So within a period of less than 72 hours, bounded by12:01AM on March 23 to 9PM on March 25, we’ll have 2 massive moments in pop culture:  the release of the film version of THE HUNGER GAMES, and the return, after an endless (for television) 17-month absence, of MAD MEN, the most honored dramatic series of its era.

Over the next 12 days, we’ll look at both these oncoming freight trains of pop culture.
Today the advance tracking is in for the Hunger Games opening weekend, and as recounted by The Hollywood Reporter, it’s phenomenal.  Hopes have certainly been high for the first film in this series–it’s no secret that Lionsgate saw the franchise as its answer to Summit’s Twilight, both being based on enormously successful Young Adult books (ironically, in the interim Lionsgate bought Summit)–but it may not have been aiming high enough.  The original Twilight opened with a $70M weekend, and although dwarfed by subsequent openings in the series, it was considered a enormous, game-changing hit.  
The tracking for Hunger Games predicts an opening weekend of over $100M–maybe as high as $120-140M (over $100M, the ordinary instruments of boxoffice tracking, like equipment used for scientific experiments in outer space, are unable to cope with the drastic change in atmosphere).  That could potentially be as high as any Twilight has ever opened, and approaches the level of the final Harry Potter movies–which is to say, some of the biggest movie openings of all time.
The reason is that Hunger Games has something Twilight has always lacked:  appeal for the male audience.  Despite the series’ female protagonist (Haywire is just the most recent non-Angelina Jolie action movie with a female lead to fail in theatres), Lionsgate’s very smart marketing campaign has emphasized the epic set-up of the Games and mostly hidden the story’s romantic angle.  (It’s also keeping parents in the tent by downplaying the fact that the Games, by definition, involves deadly violence committed by, and to, adolescents.)  
Of course, no one has seen the movie yet (it officially premieres tonight in LA before an invited audience), and in this social network-driven time, bad buzz can certainly dampen enthusiasm.  But for now, Hunger Games seems to have a fair shot of becoming the highest-opening movie ever to open between December and April (Alice In Wonderland currently holds the mark with $116M).
Tomorrow:  Mad Men at PaleyFest!


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."