Reality Check: Why Some (Wrongly) Think 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Underperformed on November 26, 2013

cf1.pngBy Shawn Robbins

Lionsgate, the freshly minted seventh major studio whose movies had never posted a domestic opening weekend of more than $41 million until last year, just established one of the best debuts ever with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire's $158.1 million bow.

Yet, many seem to be under the impression that number is disappointing.


Sure, if someone's portfolio fell victim to Lionsgate's 10 percent slide in shares yesterday, they may be justifiably disappointed by that fact. Don't blame it on the movie, the studio, or audiences though. Blame it on the fanboy mentality which dictates bigger isn't good enough anymore; a mentality that essentially requires even the most optimistic of expectations to be exceeded, and if they're not, perception dooms healthy performances into classifications such as "non-eventful" and "let down". Unfortunately, as we saw on Wall Street yesterday, that mentality affects the real world, too.

Worst of all, indulging in said thought process precedes avoiding the responsibility of being able to step back and say, "the movie's doing great business, the signs were just misread." Flawed thinking has skewed perceptions of the box office in recent years, inaccurately portraying major financial successes as disappointments, and moderate disappointments as outright flops.

Not every highly anticipated sequel is going to shatter box office records like Marvel's The Avengers or The Dark Knight. And that's okay! What, then, should be the measure of a satisfying performance? Profitability is a good place to start, as are the long-run domestic and global grosses of a film (all measures by which Catching Fire is an undeniable winner).

How about also including the fact that Catching Fire retained the entire upfront audience of its somewhat front-loaded predecessor? That alone is impressive, especially when considering the sequel is facing a more competitive marketplace.

Or, let's focus on the point of Catching Fire now representing the highest opener in history to be anchored by a female leading character--obviously, taking over the first film's claim to that honor. That's encouraging news in an industry still figuring out how to get away from its male dominance.

Internationally, the film is already posting a massive improvement over the first (whose overseas earnings were muted due to pre-brand growth). Catching Fire generated $307.7 million in its worldwide opening, about 45 percent stronger than the first film's debut.

Still not convinced? The biggest variable overlooked by tracking in the days and weeks leading up to Catching Fire's debut was that it doesn't have the aid of 3D surcharges like Iron Man 3 did when it opened to a massive $174.1 million (16 percent less than Avengers) earlier this year and was considered the opposite of "disappointing"--rightly so. That gross represents the same approximate number (with some margin for error) of actual tickets sold for Catching Fire. All things being equal, would Iron Man 3 have been considered "disappointing" had it not played in 3D and opened between $150-160 million?

Perspective has been sacrificed, perhaps, for collective ego. It's one thing to turn box office runs into standardized competitions that offer up arbitrary bragging rights across movie fandoms--and between studios, perhaps. To some, that's part of the fun of movie communities such as the BoxOffice Forums. Still, it shouldn't come at the cost of objectivity. Like with anything in life, some expectations (even well-argued ones) prove wrong, and that includes holding a 2D movie to the same standards of a 3D movie (something BoxOffice cautioned against long before Catching Fire's release).

If a movie "fails" to reach high-end expectations at the box office while still boasting impressive performance metrics (as Catching Fire does) that other movies under similar circumstances don't attain, that simply means the analysis was off somewhere. Even the most reliable forms of tracking can be fallible in the ever-evolving science of box office, making the human element that much more important.

Let's make Catching Fire's opening a teachable moment. Let's remember when something like The Avengers: Age of Ultron or Star Wars: Episode VII "fails" to hit a $250 million opening weekend in 2015, it won't mean the movie disappointed. It will simply lend perspective to differentiate optimism from realism.

What do you think about Catching Fire's debut, readers? Sound off on the BoxOffice Forums!

Follow Shawn Robbins and BoxOffice on Twitter for breaking box office news and analysis



LOS ANGELES - November 26, 2013 - According to Fandango, the nation's leading moviegoer destination, Thanksgiving weekend will be a hot one at the movies, based on strong ticket sales and moviegoer buzz for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and Disney's animated film, "Frozen," debuting in theaters nationwide tonight. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "Frozen" scored 91 and 90 out of 100 points, respectively, on Fandango's Fanticipation movie buzz indicator.

Advance ticket sales for Disney's "Frozen" are heating up, as the movie now ranks as Fandango's top advance ticket-seller among animated original films (non-sequels), outselling Pixar's hit animated film, "Brave," the previous record-holder, at the same point in the sales cycle on Fandango.

"'Frozen' is a charming crowd-pleaser that is gaining great word-of-mouth momentum," said Dave Karger, Fandango Chief Correspondent and Host of Fandango's movie recommendation show, "Weekend Ticket." "It's definitely the top choice for families with young kids during the long Thanksgiving weekend."

According to a survey of more than 1,000 "Frozen" ticket-buyers:
· 93% say the strong sisterhood bond between the leading female characters increased their interest in seeing the movie;

· 86% plan to see the movie as part of a Thanksgiving family outing;

· 83% claim it's a family tradition to see a Disney movie (e.g., The Muppets, Tangled, Enchanted) during the holiday season.

"Frozen" star Josh Gad, voice of Olaf, the magical snowman, provides a special video message just for Fandango Fans, and encourages moviegoers to see "the epic 3D action" in RealD. The video is live on the front page of

About Fandango's Fanticipation
Known for having its finger on the pulse of moviegoers, Fandango's movie buzz indicator, Fanticipation, provides statistical insight into the movies fans are planning to see in a given weekend. Fanticipation scores (based on a 1 to 100-point scale) are calculated via an algorithm of Fandango's advance ticket sales, website and mobile traffic, and social media engagement. Fanticipation is not intended as a forecast of the weekend box office; it is a snapshot of movie fan sentiment.

GLOBAL: ‘Catching Fire’ Reigns in IMAX with $18M Haul on November 25, 2013

cf1.pngThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire finished the weekend with an impressive $307.7 million from 65 territories around the world. IMAX is accounting for a healthy $18 million contribution to that figure, with $5.4 million of that tally coming from overseas.

The full press release from the film's record-setting November weekend is pasted below:

IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX) and Lionsgate (NYSE:LGF) announced today that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second film in the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise, has grossed approximately $18 million in IMAX theatres worldwide and $12.6 million in 347 IMAX® theatres in North America since its release Friday, Nov. 22, resulting in a domestic per-screen average of approximately $36,300. That is the best three-day domestic opening for November in IMAX history, topping the previous record set by Sony's Skyfall in November 2012.

For the weekend, eight of the top 10 domestic runs for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire were IMAX engagements.

Internationally, the film delivered a robust $5.4 million in multiple IMAX territories, including standout performances in the Netherlands ($73,000 per-screen average), Australia ($63,000) and the United Kingdom ($51,000). Overall, the film has grossed an estimated $307.7 million through Sunday for Lionsgate worldwide and an estimated $161.125 million in its opening weekend domestically.

The film led the entire IMAX network to its second best overall weekend ever with total worldwide grosses for IMAX reaching $25.7 million.

"We're excited that fans are seeking out the IMAX format in record numbers as the ideal way to experience The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," said Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment and Senior Executive Vice President, IMAX Corp. "I want to congratulate and thank our partners - producers Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik, director Francis Lawrence, and Lionsgate - who realized the full potential of IMAX by using our capture technology in the arena sequences and proved once again that the Hunger Games series is a world-class franchise. Given the film's ‘A' Cinemascore and the use of IMAX differentiation, not to mention the Thanksgiving holiday in front of us, we're optimistic about the film's long-term prospects."

Helping to further eventize this cultural phenomenon and transport moviegoers into the world of Panem, director Francis Lawrence used IMAX's extremely high-resolution cameras to film portions of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Exclusively in IMAX® theatres, when Katniss enters the arena the image will expand to fill the IMAX screen for the entire arena sequence with unprecedented crispness and clarity, putting moviegoers right into the action alongside Katniss and her fellow Tributes.

GLOBAL: 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Spreads Worldwide with $307.7M Bow on November 24, 2013

THGCFStill.jpgThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire delivered the big weekend it was promising, bringing in $307.7 million in its global day-and-date debut. The Hunger Games sequel posted a 45% improvement above the original's $211.8 million worldwide bow.

Catching Fire spread to 63 overseas territories and returned with a $146.6 million haul, more than doubling the opening weekend gross of the original in most major markets. The United Kingdom posted a $19.8 million debut, a massive improvement over the original's $7.7 million bow in the market. The U.K.'s opening weekend is more than half of the original's $38.1 million cume in the market. Catching Fire graced the $13 million mark in Germany, over 300% better than the original's $4.2 million opening weekend. Catching Fire nearly reached the $11 million mark in its Russian roll-out, already in striking distance of overtaking the original's $13.3 million lifetime gross in the market. IMAX screenings accounted for $5.4 million of the overseas opening haul and $18 million of the global gross. 

The top markets for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire include the United Kingdom ($19.8M), Brazil ($13.6M / 2nd Weekend), Germany ($12.8M), Australia ($11.5M), Russia ($10.8M), and Mexico ($10.7M). The film's $146.6 million overseas total is already halfway to the original's lifetime overseas cume of $286.3 million.

A $35.5 million opening in China launched Gravity to a $331.5 million overseas total. IMAX brought in 20% of that figure with a $7.4 million contribution to the film's debut, making it the biggest IMAX opener of all time in China. Gravity has now grossed $577 million worldwide. Other top markets for Gravity include France ($42.8M), the United Kingdom ($31.4M), South Korea ($27.9M), and Russia ($21.1M). 

Thor: The Dark World took $6 million from its Italian debut this weekend, a great start for the superhero sequel. The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has now grossed $381 million after four weekends overseas, a more than $100 million improvement above its predecessor's $268 million lifetime gross overseas.

Thor's top markets include China ($48.3M), Russia ($34.6M), the United Kingdom ($29.6M), Brazil ($23.9M), Mexico ($21.9M), France ($20.9M), and South Korea ($20.4M). Thor: The Dark World has grossed $548.8 million overseas, nearly $100 million more than the $449 million worldwide total of the first Thor film. Thor: the Dark World will open in Japan, its only remaining market, on February 1, 2014.

Delivery Man opened day-and-date in Russia and finished the weekend with a $1.2 million take. The Russian premiere combined with a disappointing $8.3 million bow in North America to give the Vince Vaughn vehicle a $9.4 million global debut.

The Counselor has shown resiliency overseas, with its star-studded cast drawing bigger numbers outside of North America. The thriller reached a $30.1 million overseas cume this weekend to take its global total up to $46.8 million.

Bad Grandpa held on to a $1.5 million weekend in its second frame in Australia, finishing in second place above Thor: The Dark World and culminating the weekend with a $5.5 million cume. The Jackass film has now grossed $33 million overseas and $128.5 million worldwide.

Despicable Me 2 is enjoying the closing moments of its overseas run with a $550.6 million cume. The animated sequel is the #2 film of the year in terms of overseas and global numbers. The film has grossed $917 million worldwide.


GLOBAL: 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Enters the Weekend with $57.25M on November 22, 2013

THGCFStill.jpgThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire is entering the weekend with a $57.25 million worldwide haul. The sequel more than doubled its opening take from most of its overseas territories and is already reporting a $32 million gross from 43 territories outside of North America.

The film will open day-and-date in 65 territories this weekend, including top performers like: the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Spain, China, South Korea, Russia, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Catching Fire will spread to to France, Belgium, and Italy next week.



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