Why Did The Hunger Games Make $155 Million?
It has become one of the most successful films of all time. But what's the source of The Hunger Games' success?
With analyst expectations in the $70 to $100 million range (and my own personal expectation of no more than $120 million), no one expected The Hunger Games to surpass the opening weekend box office receipts of every film except The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
But it did.
The Hunger Games blew past our wildest dreams, earning Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) a sexy $155 million in revenue – roughly twice the amount of money it cost to produce the film (marketing and distribution costs excluded). As a result, analysts are now predicting that The Hunger Games could provide Lionsgate with $300 million in profit.
But how? And why? With so many question marks surrounding the film (the trailers were great for those who knew the source material – not-so-great for everyone else), and such a large number of potential pitfalls, The Hunger Games has defied Hollywood norms.
“We were over $100 million,” said Ben Carlson, the President and Co-Creator of Fizziology, a company that uses Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media to predict the success or failure of upcoming films. “We could very favorably compare it to Twilight and Harry Potter, even though those are sequels and more established properties, we could see that The Hunger Games was in the ballpark of those films.”
Carlson told Benzinga that Fizziology's numbers for The Hunger Games have been over $100 million for several weeks. “It was unlike anything we had seen before,” he said. “The sentiment was overwhelmingly positive – very few negatives. And coming from all kinds of different audiences. It wasn't the traditional Twilight [audience], where you can see it's the same teenage girls talking over and over again. This was more broad-based, more male-oriented support.”
Despite the film's potential for success, no one predicted that the film would gross $155 million during its opening weekend. “Even though I had significant expectations, I, like everyone else, was blown away by [The Hunger Games achieving] the third-best opening weekend ever,” said Carlson.
Second Week Sales
“I think it's going to have a significant drop,” Carlson said of The Hunger Games' second week at the box office. “Anytime you take that much money out of the marketplace in your first week, you're gonna drop. The Twilight movies have always had an epic drop. Their midnights are huge. Their Fridays are good. Saturdays, less so. Sundays, less so. And then it continues on the downward ramp, really because they have a very fervent fan base – they're keyed up and they're gonna be there right from the word ‘go.'”
Carlson believes that The Hunger Games is a movie that's “much more four-quadrant.”
“You're going to be able to get older audiences,” he said. “You're going to get men. And they're going to be coming and seeing what all the hype is about. I don't think we're going to see the levels of drop that the Twilights have, but it will probably be in line with other $100 million+ blockbusters, which usually experience a pretty significant drop in the second week.”
“A lot of people are talking about getting the books now, especially the second book in the series,” said Carlson. “They're very excited for the second movie. Anytime you have a film that gets to $155 million, you're talking about a film that will have a huge impact on pop culture, especially with it not being a sequel.”
Why The Hunger Games Broke Records
“Books are always lesser-known properties than movies,” said Carlson. “But this is a book that had sold millions and millions of copies and had years to develop a very active fan base.”
During our interview, I told Carlson about my own experience of reading The Hunger Games and then watching the first trailer. “That first trailer, not the teaser trailer but the full trailer, that was a fully realized version of the scenes and characters that were in many people's heads,” he said. “I think that, coupled with some great casting, and then the fact that people got swept up in it, [explained the film's success].”
Further, Carlson said that this is the time of year when people are searching for the first blockbuster film. “It's kind of like what Alice in Wonderland did two years ago,” Carlson explained. “That first big movie is going to hit in March or April and it's going to be the start of the blockbuster season. I think you had a really great property, great execution of the property, great cast, and an advantageous time of the year kind of all working together to make this giant hit.”
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