SUNDAY AM, 10TH UPDATE: Lionsgate just revised upwards its worldwide total to a massive $214.25 million for The Hunger Games which was projected to be the No. 1 title in virtually every single market globally. The studio reports this morning that this opening weekend’s North American grosses for Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games total a humongous $155 million after making $68M Friday and $51M Saturday anticipating a decent $36M Sunday hold. That’s a record-setter: the 3rd all-time biggest opening three-day weekend, behind 2008’s The Dark Knight ($158.4M); and the highest non-sequel opening weekend ever; and the highest March opening ever. Other Hunger Games records include the highest debut single day for a non-sequel ever, and the highest opening of all time outside of the Summer blockbuster season, and the 5th highest opening day ever. It also beat the Twilight Saga: The Twilight Saga: New Moon debuted to $142.8M in November 2009, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 opened to $138.1M in November 2011. Exit polling showed the audiences were 61% female and 39% male, with 56% ages 25 and older and 44% under age 25.
The Hunger Games began shattering records with its $19.75M midnights from 2,565 theaters Friday. Then it expanded into 4,137 locations in the U.S. and Canada, ending up with a per location average of $37,467. Screen count was just under 10,000 prints, about 75% of which are in digital theaters including 268 IMAX theaters across North America where it scored a record-breaking all time high weekend. IMAX’s domestic weekend box office is $10.6M, which is approximately $40K per screen — a massive figure since IMAX only has one screen per location. This weekend broke two key records as IMAX’s best opening weekend for a non-sequel 2D title, and best digital only release.
Lionsgate also finally reported its weekend international numbers which were a very strong $59.25M and tracking ahead of the first Twilight Saga film. The pic opened worldwide day-and-date in 67 markets this weekend on an estimated 7,700 prints everywhere except for Spain, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. The first international numbers coming in from Australia scored a huge $1.8 million (USD) on 471 screens, which was bigger than the debuts down under for Iron Man ($1.0M) and Quantum Of Solace ($1.0M). Then that Australia number went up a big +20% the next day — which is unusual. It ended up just under $10M. The UK grossed a big $7.5M, Russia was a breakout $6.5M, and New Zealand a strong $1.27M. Scandinavia markets combined for $3.7M, Germany $3.9M, France $3.75M, and early estimates include Mexico $3.59M and Brazil $2.6M. Asian markets also posted very solid numbers: Philippines $1.71M, Singapore $1.38M, Taiwan $1.36M, Hong Kong $709K, Malaysia $655K, Thailand $649K. In the UAE $656K and the Gulf region with almost $1M combined.
Why is it doing so well? Because this brutal actioner about love and courage was based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy of post-apocalyptic young adult novels and made better than it had to be given all the omnipresent marketing and media hype. Kudos to director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) who wrote the screenplay with Collins and Billy Ray, and to the casting of Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson whom movie critics say are ‘pitch perfect’ for their roles as Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne and Peeta Mellark, respectively. Kudos as well to producer Nina Jacobson and Lionsgate execs Joe Drake and Alli Shearmur and Tim Palen and Julie Fontaine. Problem is, Hunger Games breaks a long string of box office failures for the studio. So now that Lionsgate has bought Twilight Saga mini-studio Summit and installed the top execs from there to run the movie operations, Drake is no longer co-CEO and Shearmur is being moved to a producer. Welcome to Hollywood, folks.
Adding to the great reviews around the globe (87% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), domestic audiences gave The Hunger Games an ‘A’ Cinemascore with under-age 18 teens/tweens rating it ‘A+’, an indication of their extreme satisfaction with the movie. Rival studios say The Hunger Games, unlike the Twilight Saga, has expanded from attracting both younger and older females initially now to younger makes as a 3-quadrant movie. And the heat from the anticipation by teens and tweens is making those adults who tap into the cultural zeitgeist start getting interested. So now it’s a 4-quadrant film. Amazingly, NRG tracking showed that over 90% of moviegoers said they were aware of the film right before its release, and roughly 2 out of 3 moviegoers in America who said they were “definitely” going to the movies this weekend were buying a ticket to see The Hunger Games. Huge lines snaked around those U.S. and Canada movie theaters able to schedule Friday midnight screenings. Some locations even arranged to play The Hunger Games at 3 AM and even continuously during this opening 3-day weekend. This is the biggest movie start ever for Lionsgate, which now can count on a blockbuster bonanza for its franchise. “I’ve never lived up at this level. Very few people have,” one ecstatic Lionsgate exec gushed to me Friday night. “I did see some champagne glasses flowing down the hall.”
What made Lionsgate’s promotional campaign for The Hunger Games so unusual and probably effective was that the studio stuck to the rare strategy of not showing any footage of the games themselves in any marketing materials. So all that staggering amount of interest in this film was incited with no one having actually seen even a hint of over half the movie. Marketing kicked off last summer with 2 Entertainment Weekly covers during production to announce the cast, as well as the launch of the motion poster of the iconic flaming mocking jay. (Since EW has long been the semi-official mag of the Twilight Saga, Lionsgate took a page from Summit — which it now owns.) ABC’s Good Morning America debuted the entire trailer on air in November. Between the release of the first Hunger Games trailer in November 2011 and January 2012, the number of Collins’ books sold nearly doubled. By the time of the film’s opening, Hunger Games was on over 50 magazine covers.
The studio estimates its TV on-air promotions and sponsorships reached over 102 million people in America. They included a 3-night “studio lot sponsorship” on FX movies, Fangasm spots on MTV featuring the Real World Challenges cast, a Comedy Central ‘Action Countdown’ weekend, and an ABC Family ‘Premiere Party’ during the Season 2 finale of Pretty Little Liars where teen female viewers helped break social media records while twittering about a clip featuring fan favorite Peeta. According to SocialGuide, this generated the most social media buzz for any one-hour TV episode on record. The digital campaign was massive and started with the launch of the cast on The Hunger Games‘ Facebook page, then exploded over the past year with its own blogs. Lionsgate also worked exclusively with Microsoft to create games and apps. Publicity-wise, the film had an 8-city mall tour with thousands of fans at each stop around the country, as well as promotional screenings in 26 markets. The film had 5 premieres globally, starting in LA at the Nokia, and then London, Paris, Berlin and NYC.
Overall, the $214M weekend is looking up +76% from last year. The #2 Sony Pictures’ holdover 21 Jump Street and #3 Universal’s Dr. Suess The Lorax did well but other movies couldn’t get traction except Provident Films’ and distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films’ newcomer October Baby. The anti-abortion drama opened in only 390 theaters nationwide but managed the second-highest per-screen average. The independent faith-based film marks the feature debut of video directors and brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin who made it for just a $1M budget. Like its successful predecessors in the genre, the coming-of-age film is relying on word-of-mouth from conservative religious groups and block buys of tickets at churches and colleges. It was first released last fall for three weeks into 13 theaters in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, timed to an ultimately unsuccessful “personhood” ballot initiative and backed with funding from the American Family Association. Provident has had previous successes with faith-based films like 2008’s Fireproof and 2011’s Courageous.
Here’s the Top Ten (based on weekend grosses):
1. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) NEW [4,137 Theaters] PG13-rated
Friday $68M, Saturday $51.0M, Weekend $155.0M
International $59.25M, Worldwide $214.25
2. 21 Jump Street (Sony) Week 2 [3,121 Theaters] R-rated
Friday $6.2M (-53%), Saturday $8.6M, Weekend $21.3M (-41%), Cume $71M
3. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax 3D (Universal) Week 4 [3,677 Theaters] PG-rated
Friday $3.2M, Saturday $5.9M, Weekend $13.1M, Cume $177.3M
4. John Carter 3D (Disney) Week 3 [3,212 Theaters) PG13-rated
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $5.0M, Cume $62.3M
International $172.1M, Worldwide $234.4M
5. Act Of Valor (Relativity) Week 5 [2,219 Theaters] R-rated
Friday $560K, Saturday $925K, Weekend $2.0M, Cume $65.9M
6. Project X (Warner Bros) Week 4 [2,065 Theaters] R-rated
Friday $625K, Saturday $810K, Weekend $1.9M, Cume $51.7M
7. A Thousand Words (DWorks/Par) Week 3 [1,787 Theaters] PG13-rated
Friday $525K, Saturday $905K, Weekend $1.9M, Cume $14.9M
8. October Baby (Provident/Goldwyn) NEW [398 Theaters] PG13-rated
Friday $595K, Saturday $620K, Weekend $1.7M
9. Safe House (Universal) Week 7 [1,330 Theaters] R-rated
Friday $392K, Saturday $670K, Weekend $1.3M, Cume $122.5M
10. Journey 2 (Warner Bros) Week 7 [1,340 Theaters] PG-rated
Friday $310K, Saturday $638K, Weekend $1.3M, Cume $97.1M
SATURDAY 7:30 AM, 7TH UPDATE… EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate’s record-shattering The Hunger Games opened with $68.25M grosses for Friday’s North American box office, including $19.75M in record-setting midnights. That should make for a first weekend of $140M with upside from 4,137 locations, with a screen count just under 10,000 prints. About 75% of those prints are in digital theaters, including 268 IMAX theaters across North America. Hunger Games records include: the highest non-sequel opening weekend ever, and the highest debut single day for a non-sequel ever, and the highest March opening ever, and the 5th highest opening day ever.
FRIDAY 11 PM, 6TH UPDATE… EXCLUSIVE: My sources tonight say The Hunger Games is looking to open humongous with $66 million for Friday box office from 4,137 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, including the record $19.75M in midnight shows. An insider tells me that “$70M is still a possibility for Friday with a little swing here or there”. And one rival studio exec explains to me, “The West Coast and late shows still need to come in, so this number could bounce around a bit. But, nevertheless it’s everything we thought it to be.” That puts its 3-day North American weekend gross at a gigantic $138M with a lot of upside. Adding to the great reviews around the globe, domestic audiences gave The Hunger Games an ‘A’ Cinemascore with under-age 18 teens/tweens rating it ‘A+’. This is the biggest movie start ever for Lionsgate, which now can count on a blockbuster bonanza for its franchise trilogy. “I’ve never lived up at this level. Very few people have,” one ecstatic Lionsgate exec gushed to me Friday night. “I did see some champagne glasses flowing down the hall.” This is not the biggest opening day gross ever, but it is for a non-sequel and/or non-reboot film (unadjusted for inflation) — and certainly an amazing start. It’s within the Top 5 all-time Friday openings which include 1) Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two ($91.1M), 2) Twilight Saga: New Moon ($72.7M); 3) Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One ($71.6M), 4) The Dark Knight ($67.2M); 4) Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part One ($61.7M).
Except for #2 Sony Pictures’ holdover 21 Jump Street and #3 Universal’s Dr. Suess The Lorax, other movies couldn’t get traction Friday. Overall, the weekend is looking up +60% from last year.
FRIDAY 8:00 PM, 5TH UPDATE… EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games now has a hefty opening location average right around $12,000. Keep in mind that in many ways there are no ideal comps because the big-grossing films are all holiday and/or sequels and/or summer releases. Whereas Hunger Games, based on the bestselling trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, is a March debut of a first in a franchise. Comps include Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two – $13,028, which made for a $91.1M opening day and $169.2M weekend; The Dark Knight – $12,219/$67.2M/$158.4M; Twilight Saga: New Moon – $14,504/$72.7M/$142.8M; Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One – $11,185/$71.6M/$138.1M.
FRIDAY 4:10 PM, 4TH UPDATE… EXCLUSIVE: My movie studio sources are telling me that the Friday gargantuan opening box office for Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games is ranging from a low of $60M to a high of $75M today from 4,137 North American theaters. That number includes the record-setting $19.75M midnight grosses. For the 3-day weekend overall domestic blockbuster number, my insiders are predicting a low of $135M to a high near $150M. This is a huge bonanza for the studio and not much less than its motion picture revenue for recent quarters. Meanwhile Lionsgate sources are telling me that the hotly anticipated pic did a matinee per-screen average of $7,800. Now that number is rising past $9,900 at this hour. That’s better than The Dark Knight ($9,806) and Twilight Saga’s Breaking Down Part One ($9,310) but not Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two ($11,300) and Twilight Saga’s New Moon ($12,600).
FRIDAY 10:30 AM, 2ND UPDATE… EXCLUSIVE: Rival movie studios looking at early matinee grosses (which are dominated by pre-sales) tell me that Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games may beat the most recent Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One opening weekend gross of $138 million. That would be an extraordinary result since this is only the first in The Hunger Games franchise trilogy. “Early matinees are in the world where The Hunger Games will give Twilight a run for their money,” one mogul tells me. “It’s doing spectacularly. Unlike Twilight, it’s attracting both boys and girls as a 3-quadrant movie. And the heat of it from the teens and tweens is making adults start to get interested as well. Older audiences are turning up to make it a 4-quadrant film.”
FRIDAY 8:30 AM UPDATE… EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games is already shattering records. Its opening $19.75 million box office result from 2,565 midnight locations set the record for all-time highest-grossing non-sequel midnights ever. It’s also the 7th highest midnight gross of all time. To understand how gigantic this result is, Batman reboot The Dark Knight did $18.5M in midnights on a summer opening in 2008. It’s also the highest IMAX non-summer non-holiday 2D opening of all time, earning $1.3M from 269 IMAX locations. That’s the highest midnights behind Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part One ($1.4M) and Part Two ($2.0M) and more than Transformers 3 ($1.3M). Huge lines snaked around those North American movie theaters able to schedule midnight screenings. Some locations even arranged to play The Hunger Games continuously during this opening 3-day weekend. Right now theater owners are adding screens every minute for the largest release in the history of Lionsgate with an opening weekend count in excess of 4,127 locations in the U.S. and Canada for 10,000+ prints. (Right now, that only puts The Hunger Games at #12 on the all-time list of widest openings at the box office. No. 1 is June 2010′s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse which released into 4,468 theaters.) Also look for a humongous overseas opening worldwide day-and-date on an estimated 7,700 prints everywhere except for handful of markets (which include Spain, Italy, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Venezuela.
On Wall Street, Lionsgate shares bounced around in trading but ended at par. Some of that likely is due to profit-taking and high expectations games. The film/TV studio’s stock price is up 134.3% over the last 12 months. “There is an old market saw ‘Buy on the rumor, sell on the news’ that is likely unfolding,” Piper Jaffray analyst James Marsh tells Deadline’s David Lieberman. Bulls may not want to count on The Hunger Games topping The Twilight Saga: New Moon which generated $142.8M in its opening weekend. Some traders were concerned about The Hunger Games’ $20M midnight opening which didn’t match the Twilight Saga’s. But the pros likely will sit on the sidelines until they see how the frontloaded film does its second weekend, a far better barometer for a film’s ultimate performance.
Fandango is currently selling 12 tickets per second for The Hunger Games which represents an overwhelming 97% of online ticket sales today. More than 3,500 showtimes sold out on fandango in advance of the release. The Hunger Games now leads the list of Fandango’s top franchise-openers, and has eclipsed The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and surpassed The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 to become Fandango’s #3 advance ticket seller of all-time. According to a recent Fandango survey of several thousand Hunger Games ticket-buyers, 89% said they plan to see the movie on opening weekend, 62% of ticket-buyers planned on seeing the film more than once on the big screen, 54% were going with a group of 3 or more friends.To date, nearly 2,500 screenings offered nationwide by the online ticketing provider for the film’s release have sold out, of which over 1,400 were for last night’s midnight screenings. On MovieTickets.com, The Hunger Games is the #1 non-sequel preseller of all-time, beating out Twilight. Over 10% of all tickets sold for the first weekend release are for IMAX theaters.
THURSDAY PM: I’ve just learned that the first international numbers coming in for the opening of Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games tonight are gigantic.The hotly anticipated movie scored a huge $1.8 million (USD) in Australia. (For the record, the gross was AUS 1,741,000 on 471 screens which is about $1.8M USD.) My sources say that’s bigger than the debuts down under for Iron Man ($1.0M) and Quantum Of Solace ($1.0M), although not Transformers 2 ($2.1M).
The pic opens worldwide day-and-date on an estimated 7,700 prints everywhere except for a handful of markets (which include Spain, Italy, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Venezuela).
Here at home, moviegoers lined up at 9 PM EST for the midnight screening for NYC’s Union Square, and at 7 PM PST for LA’s Burbank 16. (see photos) Hollywood and Wall Street are certain that The Hunger Games can generate as much as $125M domestically this 3-day weekend, which would make it the all-time biggest opening for the month of March and possibly break other records. Right now Lionsgate and theater owners are adding screens every minute for the largest release in the history of Lionsgate with an opening weekend North American count in excess of 4,127 locations. The studio will have at least 10,000 prints playing throughout the U.S. and Canada starting Friday. (Right now, that only puts The Hunger Games at #12 on the all-time list of widest openings at the box office. No. 1 is June 2010′s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse which released into 4,468 theaters.) More than 75% of the prints are in digital, with 268 IMAX theatres across North America playing the hotly anticipated pic. Online pre-sales of tickets continue to amaze, and business for Friday 12:01 AM midnight shows is expected to be phenomenal. Exactly how much the studio can gross for the first weekend depends on how many screenings each theater can pack into 72 hours by finding enough staff willing to work the extra hours and keep the pic running continuously.