“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the sequel to the film about teens fighting to the death in a totalitarian world, opened with $158.1 million in weekend sales for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., short of some estimates. The shares fell.
Walt Disney Co.’s “Delivery Man,” a comedy starring Vince Vaughn, was the only other new film in wide release, collecting $7.94 million to place fourth, Rentrak Corp. said in an e-mailed statement today.
“Catching Fire” was “a bit light,” said Jordon Laycob, manager of the Marsico Flexible Capital Fund in Denver, in a telephone interview. “The real test will be how it holds up into next weekend.” The film’s gross was about $13 million short of the firm’s estimate, he said.
The movie, with Jennifer Lawrence returning as heroine Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as her co-combatant Peeta Mellark, is poised to dominate the box office for three weeks and may earn Lions Gate $400 million or more through its share of ticket sales, DVDs, pay television and free TV, the estimate of Benjamin Mogil, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
Lions Gate fell 10 percent to $30.23 at the close in New York, paring its advance this year to 84 percent. The total reported by Lions Gate included $25.3 million in sales from Thursday night showings that began at 8 p.m., the company said. That means it’s not directly comparable to the original “Hunger Games,” which had $152.5 million in opening receipts.
Rentrak said “Catching Fire” ranks as the sixth-largest weekend opening, behind “The Dark Knight,” which collected $158.4 million in July 2008 and now ranks fifth. The No. 1 opener is “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which took in $207.4 million in May 2012.
The new film’s futuristic setting, the appeal of the young characters, including Oscar winner Lawrence, and a story about rebellion against an oppressive government are attracting a wide swath of movie fans. Sales also benefitted from screenings in Imax theaters, where prices are higher, and a lack of competition from new releases.
International sales totaled $146.6 million.
The 146-minute movie is showing in all of Imax Corp.’s 650-plus screens for three weeks, including almost 350 in the U.S. and Canada. BoxOffice.com projected $166 million in domestic weekend sales. Lions Gate faces little competition until “The Hobbit” sequel opens on Dec. 13, according to Phil Contrino, its chief analyst.
“Catching Fire” picks up where “The Hunger Games” left off, with Everdeen and Mellark touring the fictional nation of Panem after winning the 74th Hunger Games. They inadvertently become symbols of rebellion and are forced to compete again, this time against more deadly foes -- former winners like themselves. Donald Sutherland again stars as President Snow, and Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci return in supporting roles. Lawrence, 23, won the best-actress Oscar this year for “Silver Linings Playbook.”
“Catching Fire” garnered an 89 percent favorable rating on RottenTomatoes.com, which aggregates critics’ reviews.
“The studio squeezes the franchise for all it’s worth,” Manohla Dargis wrote in the New York Times. “‘Catching Fire’ isn’t a great work of art but it’s a competent, at times exciting movie.”
The best prospects for growth over the original film are outside the U.S., where sequels tend to do better, according to Mogil. Foreign sales may be as much as $450 million, he said. The first picture generated $283.2 million internationally.
The studio has scheduled a third movie from “The Hunger Games” for release next November and the fourth a year later, according to Box Office Mojo.
“Delivery Man,” the other new wide release, was projected by BoxOffice.com to take in $9 million. Vaughn stars as an underachiever who learns he fathered hundreds of children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic years earlier. He has to decide whether to come forward when some of them sue to find out his identity. It got a 37 percent favorable rating by RottenTomatoes.
Vaughn “shuffles through this brazenly manipulative ode to fatherhood with doughy passivity,” Jeannette Catsoulis wrote in the New York Times.
“Frozen,” the new animated feature from Disney, opened in one theater before going into wide release next week. The movie, about a princess who sets off on an epic journey to find her sister, the Snow Queen, features the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff.
Among returning films, “Thor: The Dark World,” the superhero sequel from Disney’s Marvel studios, took in $14.2 million to place second. “The Best Man Holiday,” about college friends reuniting after 15 years, placed third, with $12.5 million for Universal Pictures, after its debut last weekend.
“Free Birds,” the Thanksgiving-themed animated movie from Relativity Media featuring the voices of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, placed fifth, taking in $5.4 million.
Rev. Pct. Avg./ Total Movie (mln) Chg. Theaters Theater (mln) Wks ================================================================ 1 Hunger Games $158.1 -- 4,163 $37,971 $158.1 1 2 Thor:Dark World 14.2 -61 3,713 3,823 167.9 3 3 Best Man Holiday 12.5 -59 2,041 6,120 50.4 2 4 Delivery Man 7.9 -- 3,036 2,617 7.9 1 5 Free Birds 5.4 -34 3,071 1,746 48.7 4 6 Last Vegas 4.4 -48 2,926 1,490 53.9 4 7 Jackass Presents 3.4 -54 2,625 1,308 95.4 5 8 Gravity 3.2 -47 1,845 1,740 245.4 8 9 12 Years A Slave 2.8 -38 1,474 1,922 29.4 6 10 Dallas Buyers Club 2.7 53 666 4,035 6.4 4
Top 10 Films GrossesThis Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $214.6 $198.6 +8.1
Year-to-date Revenue2013 2012 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $9,510 $9,678 -1.7 Source: Rentrak Corp.