March 24, 2012



Yep, that happened.
OPENINGSTHE HUNGER GAMES (Lionsgate/Summit) was as massive as predicted, with a $68.3M opening day that was the 5th largest in movie history, behind only the final Harry Potter and the last 3 Twilights, and slightly ahead of The Dark Knight.  The question, of course, is what happens today.  The Friday openings ahead of Hunger Games (Twilight:  Eclipse opened on a Wednesday) were hugely frontloaded, with 51-54% of their total opening weekends pouring in on the first day.  The Dark Knight, though, was far more balanced, with only 42% of its weekend total on Friday.  That could be the difference for Hunger Games between a $135M weekend and one that gets all the way to $150M+.  The conventional wisdom would be that Hunger will behave more like a Twilight, but with its surprisingly strong appeal to males, and generally fine reviews, Hunger could surprise.

The only other remotely wide release that dared to step into the marketplace this weekend was the anti-abortion screed OCTOBER BABY (Goldwyn), with a targeted run at 390 theatres.  It found some niche audience and could reach $1.8M for the weekend, with a $5K per theatre average.  (We’ll stay away from a contemplation of the gulf between Katniss Everdeen and the protagonist of this one.)  
HOLDOVERS:  In different circumstances, considering its favorable reviews and good midweek business,  21 JUMP STREET (Sony) might have hoped for a better hold than this weekend will allow, as it heads for perhaps $20M and close to a 50% drop.  The picture should still top $100M before it’s done.  THE LORAX (Universal), with its younger audience, was less damaged and may fall around 45%, still getting to $200M or so.  JOHN CARTER (Disney), though, dropped off the radar and is headed for a 60% plummet or more–it may now not even get to $75M in the US.  Other long-runners like SAFE HOUSE (Universal), THIS MEANS WAR (20th) and ACT OF VALOR (Relativity) are starting to lose theatres and likely to hit 50% or higher declines.
Not that Lionsgate cares this weekend, but its Spanish-language Will Ferrell spoof CASA DE MI PADRE (in a distribution partnership called Pantelion) expanded horribly on Friday, adding 25% more theatres but crashing to a weekend drop of 55% or more, with a per-theatre average that may not reach $2K.  
LIMITED RELEASESSALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (CBS) expanded decently, doubling its theatre count to 124 and going up by about a third, with a $5K per theatre average.  JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME (Paramount Vantage) will only drop around 40-45% this weekend, but with a per-theatre average of only $2K or so, it doesn’t matter much.  The weekend’s promising opening is THE RAID: REDEMPTION (Sony Classics), heading for a $17-20K average in 14 theatres.  THE DEEP BLUE SEA (Music Box), despite some fine reviews for Rachel Weisz, is only likely to have a $3K average in 28 theatres.
NEXT WEEKEND:  When WRATH OF THE TITANS (Warners) and MIRROR MIRROR (Relativity) scheduled their openings, they probably thought they would be up against a 2d weekend of Hunger Games in the neighborhood of $35M.  Now $50-60M is more likely, which is bad news for the newcomers.  Also working against them:  Wrath is the sequel to one of the least well-regarded hits in recent years (Clash of the Titans was lucky enough to be one of the first 3D releases after Avatar, and even featured Avatar‘s star Sam Worthington), and Mirror Mirror, based on its marketing materials, is some kind of campy comedy that looks like a mix between Glee and Once Upon A Time.  

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."