At this stage, it's unclear who's more excited by the debut of Gary Ross' The Hunger Games next Thursday midnight: the fans of Suzanne Collins' dystopian novel or box office prognosticators.
The fan frenzy seems to be quite mild indeed when compared to the myriad North American opening-weekend estimates popping up everywhere online. Will The Hunger Games open to the tune of $70 million or $140 million? Will it be as big as Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1? Will it surpass Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland to become the biggest March debut ever (whether or not we consider actual ticket sales)? Will Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson become the next Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner? If so, will they make as much dough? If so, how much dough is that?
Below is list of the top ten opening weekends in the U.S. and Canada to date, as found at Box Office Mojo. Bear in mind that in the United States (but not necessarily elsewhere), the list of top grossers is not – unfortunately – based on ticket sales, but on box office receipts not adjusted for either inflation or 3D/IMAX surcharges. The result is a very warped list indeed – e.g., though in 2003 Bryan Singer's X2: X-Men United brought in "only" $85.55 million (approx. $112.5 million today), it was actually seen by more people on opening weekend than the 3D-boosted Alice in Wonderland. Anyhow, the list below at least helps to give you an idea of a film's (mega)popularity.
- David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) with $169.2 million (Daniel Radcliffe / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint / Ralph Fiennes)
- Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) with $158.4 million (Christian Bale / Heath Ledger / Maggie Gyllenhaal)
- Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 (2007) with $151.1 million (Tobey Maguire / Kirsten Dunst / James Franco)
- The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) with $142.8 million (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner)
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011) with $138.1 million
- Gore Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) with $135.6 million (Johnny Depp / Orlando Bloom / Keira Knightley)
- Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2 (2010) with $128.1 million (Robert Downey Jr / Gwyneth Paltrow / Scarlett Johansson)
- David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) with $125 million
- Chris Miller's Shrek the Third (2007) with $121.6 million (voices of Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas)
- Alice in Wonderland (2010) with $116.1 million (Johnny Depp / Mia Wasikowska / Anne Hathaway)
Note: The only non-summer (Sept.-Apr.) openings listed above are those of Deathly Hallows: Part 1, New Moon, Breaking Dawn Part 1, and Alice in Wonderland.
The Hunger Games was directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville), from a screenplay by Ross, Shattered Glass / Breach's Billy Ray, and author Suzanne Collins.
The sci-fier/adventure drama set in a post-apocalyptic North America stars Winter's Bone / X-Men: First Class / Devil You Know's Jennifer Lawrence, The Expendables 2 / AWOL / The Last Song's Liam Hemsworth, and The Kids Are All Right / Journey 2: The Mysterious Island's Josh Hutcherson, Movie 43 / Man on a Ledge's Elizabeth Banks, and Rampart / The People vs. Larry Flynt's Woody Harrelson.
Also: The Devil Wears Prada / The Lovely Bones / Gambit's Stanley Tucci, Salvation Boulevard / The Healer's Isabelle Fuhrman, The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising / Race to Witch Mountain's Alexander Ludwig, Sitting Babies / Running Wild's Jack Quaid, MASH / Ordinary People's Donald Sutherland, American Beauty / Loveless / The Time Being's Wes Bentley, and Snow White and the Huntsman / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' Toby Jones.
Jennifer Lawrence / Liam Hemsworth / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.