It’s a foregone conclusion the second installment in the Hunger Games franchise, opening today in 4,163 theatres, will prove victorious at the box office this weekend – and the next weekend, and the one after that, and so on and so forth, until Catching Fire has not merely broken but incinerated most sales records set before it.
If our expectations sound a tad hyperbolic, consider the context. The first Hunger Games film opened to an awe-some $152 million. It continued to hold strong through the duration of its theatrical run, resisting any significant downturn in sales thanks to strong word-of-mouth and favorable reviews. By the time it finally closed, The Hunger Games had amassed $408 million. That makes it the 14th highest-grossing movie of all time. Surprisingly, it out-earned any of the Harry Potter or Twilight films, which had previously set the bar for frenzied-fan fare.
Then there’s that small, shiny pated statue perched somewhere in Jennifer Lawrence’s house. The actress who plays Katniss Everdeen has seen her star rise and rise since 2012’s Games. She won an Oscar for her turn as a stubborn yet compassionate (we spy a theme) dancer in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook last year, and stood out within an ensemble cast of pretty mutants in Marble’s lucrative tentpole X Men: First Class. Add to the mix all those viral videos of her acting lovely, like the one in which she comforted a crying fan, and Jennifer Lawrence is capable of calling upon quite a large group of faithful for support.
However, there are those pundits who believe it would be difficult for any film, even this one, to surpass a $152 million weekend opening. There’s little doubt Catching Fire will match its predecessor – beyond that, it may eke out another $8 million or so for a staggering $160 haul. Odds are favorable.
Less so for the latest Vince Vaughn comedy, Delivery Man. Once a bankable draw, Vaughn has taken his lumps of late. Neither The Internship nor The Dilemma (no, can’t remember them either) was very successful, with the one opening to $17.3 million and the other $17.8 million. Man is tracking for an even poorer debut.
Specialty release Philomena also opens in four locations today. The film has seen a small boost in publicity in recent weeks, thanks to Harvey Weinstein’s successful campaign to change the movie’s R rating to PG-13. Weinstein’s hoping the softened label will reap dividends when Philomena opens wide and becomes accessible to family and church-going audiences, but for now, its largely positive reviews should appeal to the weekend’s arthouse viewers.
In all, between Catching Fire and the still popular Thor: The Dark World and The Best Man Holiday, this coming weekend could be one of the cinema’s best ever.