Katniss Everdeen may have come out on top of the weekend box office with an estimated $101 million in domestic ticket sales, but the new "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2" fell short of industry expectations and, unlike the "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" young-adult juggernauts, her "Hunger Games" finale fell far short of other films in the franchise.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by Francis Lawrence, “Mockingjay – Part 2” saw ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada fall below industry expectations of about $120 million. By comparison, “The Hunger Games,” the first adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novels, opened to a staggering $152.5 million domestically in 2012. Its sequel, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," opened even higher in 2013, at $158.1 million. The studio Lionsgate split the third book in the Collins trilogy, "Mockingjay," into two movies, and Part 1 opened last year to $121.9 million.
David Spitz, Lionsgate's executive vice president and general sales manager of theatrical domestic distribution, cautioned against focusing solely on the domestic gross for “Mockingjay – Part 2.” He noted the aggressive, simultaneous rollout of the finale in 86 countries. Even though some of those markets were affected by the fallout of terrorist attacks in Paris, Spitz said the film is performing on par compared to the previous films.
"We’re having a great weekend,” Spitz said. “It’s nice to be able say we are one of only 34 films to have ever had an opening weekend over $100 million."
He said the franchise as a whole is projected to break the $2-billion mark at the global box office.
About 70% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a positive rating. Audiences approved more overwhelmingly, giving the film an A-minus grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore. Crowds skewed female (56%) and under 25 (50%).
The movie, which cost an estimated $160 million to make, still is the fifth-highest opening film of the year so far, behind Universal’s "Jurassic World" ($208.8 million), Disney’s "Avengers: Age of Ultron" ($191.3 million), Universal’s "Furious 7" ($147.2 million) and Universal’s “Minions” ($115.7 million).
Sony’s new buddy Christmas comedy “The Night Before” with Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie was no match for Katniss — or James Bond or Charlie Brown. While the Bond film “Spectre” finished in second place and added $14.6 million, and “The Peanuts Movie” finished third and pulled in $12.8 million, the R-rated “The Night Before” opened with $10.1 million in ticket sales, good for fourth.
“It’s a good start to a really funny movie,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of worldwide distribution. “We felt like this was a great launch as we go into Thanksgiving weekend, where things are going to expand dramatically.”
The Jonathan Levine-directed film received an A-minus from CinemaScore and 64% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Rounding out the top five was STX Entertainment’s “Secret in Their Eyes,” starring Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film, loosely based on a 2009 Argentine thriller that won the foreign-language Oscar, garnered about $6.6 million. Critics were generally cool to the movie, and audiences gave it a B-minus CinemaScore.
The Weinstein Co.’s “Carol,” the period love story starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in acclaimed lead performances, debuted strongly on only four screens in New York and Los Angeles for a per-screen average topping $62,000 – the highest of the week.
“We’re really pleased with it,” said Erik Lomis, the studio’s theatrical distribution president. “The reviews have been pretty spectacular and people really like the film.”
“Carol” will expand in limited release through December, Lomis said. By Christmas Day, 100 to 150 theaters will be showing the Todd Haynes-directed picture, with wider expansion to come in January.
Still performing well is “Spotlight,” director Tom McCarthy’s drama about the Boston Globe’s 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of priest sexual abuse. It was the only holdover in the top 10 to post a week-to-week increase — of 166% -- partly due to its addition of more than 500 screens and building buzz about its award-season prospects.
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