You make sequels to make exponential profits. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ made $869.3 million worldwide, its follow-up ‘The Two Towers’ grossed $923.3 million globally, and the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ finale ‘The Return of the King’ took home $1,119.1 billion. This is the ideal studio trajectory. And you extend your franchises, split a finale into two films, a la “Twilight,” “Harry Potter” and “The Hobbit,” so you can keep audiences shelling out more money. But brand over-extension can hurt: “The Hobbit,” which split one already-thin book into three films, was less successful with each subsequent film. Or in the case of the ‘Hunger Games,’ brand over-extension can leave audiences with deep fatigue or even indifference. To wit, the final ‘Hunger Games’ film, ‘Mockingjay: Part 2’ did open to #1 at the box-office with $101 million (well under the $120 million projections), but it’s the lowest debut of any film in the series, and by a significant margin.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2” was down 36% from the highest grossing film in the series (‘Catching Fire,’ $158 million) and down 17% from ‘Mockingjay, Part 1’ (our review). Most pundits projected that, after a dip in 2014, the final ‘Hunger Games’ film would rally back with the big bang finale, but it was not to be. Mixed reviews probably didn’t help, nor did a drab, overly-serious last two pictures that failed to achieve the spark of the incredibly popular ‘Catching Fire,’ which promised a franchise that was going to break the bank in a major way.
So yes, debuting north of $100 million domestically is nothing to sneeze at — that’s the fifth highest debut of the year — and an impressive feat for any film, but for ‘Hunger Games’ standards this certainly has to be considered a disappointment for Lionsgate; a studio that is now without a flagship franchise and looking at what to do next. But there are upsides: an A- CinemaScore should keep it healthy in theaters for several weeks, and internationally, the global total for this opening weekend hit $247 million. Lionsgate will also point to the franchise’s cumulative power: $2.55 billion and counting. Presumably, ‘Mockingjay: Part 2′ can cross $500 million worldwide and get that number to $3 billion, but it should be noted that the film didn’t blow up in China ($16.4 million from 13,000 screens — even the U.K. performed better). The overall story, as usual, is a North American one and that downward trending box-office thanks to the second-wave rise of television, and countless streaming/VOD options where audiences can watch media of any stripe in the comfort of their own home. The person who it hurts maybe least is Jennifer Lawrence. She’s already commanding $20 million paydays, is the world’s highest paid actress currently, and after “X-Men: Apocalypse” she’ll have left both her flagship genre franchises behind: this is why you take them in the first place. One can argue she can just choose interesting work now and doesn’t have to worry about leading a new big franchise for several years.
‘Mockingjay’ did have an impact though. That $101 million debut meant a whopping 56.7% drop for Sony’s “Spectre” which took in numbers similar to Fox’s “The Peanuts Movie” this weekend. But “Spectre” is still looking very strong and after four weeks of global release (three domestically), the 24th James Bond film stands at $677 million globally. That’s already eclipsed “Casino Royale” to become the second highest grossing Bond film ever worldwide. But hitting that desired $1 billion mark, the threshold that “Skyfall” crossed, feels unlikely, especially when it looks like “Spectre” will probably land close to or just shy of $200 million (that’s a whole $100 million less than “Skyfall” at home).
The weekend wasn’t very kind to new releases. Sony’s Seth Rogen comedy “The Night Before,” which I liked significantly more than our review, could barely crack $10 million when most projections were looking at a healthier $14-$15 million. And the poorly-received remakes of STX’s “The Secret In Their Eyes” — Argentina’s Academy Award winner from 2009 — was a total non-starter that couldn’t even hit $7 million in its opening weekend despite a wide release and stars like Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman in the same picture. The times, they are a-changing, indeed. Other significant shifts in the top 10: the trio of “Goosebumps,” “Hotel Transylvania 2” and “Bridge of Spies,” which all had a strong grip on the box-office for six weeks give or take, finally gave way to new releases. All of them but ‘Spies’ fell out of the top 10, but they’ve all done solid business. Even “The Martian,” with eight weeks in the top 10 and several weeks at number 1 finally started showing signs of weakness with a 44.9% drop. But the well-beloved Mars/science adventure film currently sits at $486 million worldwide and an opening to come in China will surely take it far north of $500 million.
Things caved in for the Chilean miner movie “The 33,” which wasn’t strong in its debut and tumbled a massive 61.3% in its second week. Things are looking up for heavyweight Oscar contender “Spotlight” (one of the year’s best films, bar none); increasing its theater count by 88.4% (now on almost 600 screens), the film had a massive 166.2% increase from last weekend, grossing $3.6 million and cracking into the top 10. This bodes well for its expansion, but Open Road will probably never crack it open super wide and make the mistake Universal did with “Steve Jobs” and instead play the slow and steady race which will likely serve them well.
The limited release field belonged almost exclusively to The Weinstein Company’s ecstatically-received “Carol” from filmmaker Todd Haynes and starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The film grossed $248,149 from four screens for a $62,037 per screen average — that’s the third highest PSA of 2015 after “Steve Jobs” (if we don’t count the subsequent weekends into January of this year when “American Sniper” was still posting $140K+ PSA weekends) and just below “Sicario” at #2. Despite mixed reviews earlier this year, Universal‘s “Legend” starring Tom Hardy did well in the specialty field, grossing $83,000 from four screens for a $20,750 PSA. Uni should be very careful however when they want to release the movie wide. Look at what happened with ‘Jobs’ and Angelina Jolie’s “By The Sea” which won’t ever go wide. It’s a big wrap for her seaside picture now. Universal greatly improved the theater count on her film to 126 screens, but the movie grossed $185,000: that’s a miserable $1,468 PSA, and don’t be surprised if Uni begins to scale back and toss this one back in the ocean.
Fox Searchlight‘s “Brooklyn” is still doing well in expansion, creeping up near the top 10 and should be able to crack it soon, but A24‘s “Room” is actually slipping and not really quite catching on (though it has grossed $2.8 million after six weeks of release which is solid indie business). The same story can be told for Focus’ “Suffragette”: it’s made $3.5 million after five weeks of limited release, but it’s never caught on like wildfire in limited release like the studio might have hoped. Maybe the narrative for several of these films will change soon once critics groups, Golden Globe and Oscar nominations start shaping the season in a way that reminds audiences what they should go see.
1; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 — $101,025,000
2. Spectre — $14,600,000 ($153,702,879)
3. The Peanuts Movie — $12,800,000 ($98,943,137)
4. The Night Before — $10,100,000
5. The Secret in their Eyes — $6,633,000
6. Love the Coopers — $3,925,000 ($14,919,225)
7. The Martian — $3,700,000 ($213,039,442)
8. Spotlight — $3,603,466 ($5,879,577)
9. The 33 — $2,240,000 ($9,900,692)
10. Bridge of Spies — $1,945,000 ($65,177,412)