The third installment of the hit Hunger Games movie franchise, Mockingjay – Part 1, was released last weekend, just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US.
It grossed $123 million at the US box office, making it the best opening weekend for any movie in the country this year. Which sounds pretty great, but it was also the weakest opening weekend of all three Hunger Games films released so far (the fourth and final release, Mockingjay – Part 2 i is due out a year from now.) The law of diminishing returns appears to be kicking in:
The result was also weaker than investment analysts who cover the stockmarket-listed production company behind the movies, Lions Gate Entertainment, had expected. Piper Jaffray’s James Marsh had been tipping an opening weekend of $150 million. Still, Marsh remained bullish even after opening weekend didn’t meet his prediction: He said the movie is “exceeding expectations internationally” and tracking between 5% and 20% higher in international territories relative to Catching Fire, the preceding installment of the franchise. ”While still too early at this stage, these trends suggest that the film may still gross above our $925 million global box office estimate,” Marsh wrote.
If Marsh is right, this could be yet another example of the globalization of box office returns, a trend that has been working its way through Hollywood for some time now. While fewer Americans are going to the movies, cinema is booming internationally, particularly in emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India. Markets outside the US accounted for about 70% of global box office receipts in 2013.
The release of Mockingjay Part I in China has actually been delayed until at least January of 2015 (officially in an attempt to support local cinema, but there is speculation that authorities are concerned about its subversive, revolutionary themes). It has also been banned from certain theaters in Thailand where civil unrest is brewing. It is not clear whether this will end up impacting the movie’s global returns materially.
Of course, if Mockingjay Part I fails to meet financial expectations, and it’s still very much early days, that may just be because it’s not that good of a movie. According to the film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, it so far has the lowest rating of all three movies in the franchise, both from a critical and an audience perspective.