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THE HUNGER GAMES: First Since TITANIC with Key Female Role, Staying Power at Domestic Box Office

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games Stanley Tucci
Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games has topped the U.S. and Canada box office for the fourth weekend in a row. Starring Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), the Gary Ross-directed blockbuster scored $21.5 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. The dystopic action-drama was down a relatively modest 35 percent compared to Easter weekend.

Prior to The Hunger Games, the most recent movie to achieve the four-weekend-in-a-row feat was James Cameron / Sam Worthington’s Avatar in early 2010. In fact, Avatar remained at the top for seven consecutive weekends. The Hunger Games, however, won’t get that far. Next weekend, it’ll surely be unseated by Zac Efron / Taylor Schilling’s The Lucky One.

Among the nearly 30 movies that have managed to be no. 1 for four weekends in a row are Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale / Heath Ledger’s The Dark Knight (2008), Peter Jackson / Elijah Wood / Viggo Mortensen’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Jay Roach / Robert De Niro / Ben Stiller’s Meet the Parents (2000), Steven Spielberg / Tom HanksSaving Private Ryan, Oliver Stone / Charlie Sheen’s Platoon (1986), Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), and Jerry Paris / Steve Guttenberg’s Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985).

One notable key element about The Hunger Games is that it has a female-centered plot. The last such movie to stay at least four consecutive weekends at the top of the domestic box office was Curtis Hanson’s 1992 thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, featuring Rebecca De Mornay, Julianne Moore, and Annabella Sciorra.

Since 1980, women have had central roles in only 13 — out of a total of 54 — movies that lasted four or more consecutive weekends at no. 1 in North America. Prior to The Hunger Games, the last such release came out in late 1997. (Coincidentally, it’s currently back on the big screen.) See below (not including the aforementioned The Hand That Rocks the Cradle / The Hunger Games):

  • James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), Kate Winslet, with Leonardo DiCaprio;
  • Adrian Lyne’s Indecent Proposal (1993), Demi Moore, with Robert Redford and Woody Harrelson;
  • Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992), Sharon Stone, with Michael Douglas;
  • Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Jodie Foster, with Anthony Hopkins;
  • Amy Heckerling’s Look Who’s Talking (1989), Kirstie Alley, with John Travolta and Bruce Willis’ voice;
  • Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988), Geena Davis, with Alec Baldwin and Michael Keaton;
  • Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction (1987), Glenn Close, with Michael Douglas;
  • James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), Sigourney Weaver, with Michael Biehn;
  • Paul Mazursky’s Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Bette Midler, with Nick Nolte and Richard Dreyfuss;
  • James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment (1983), Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger, with Jack Nicholson;
  • Mark Rydell’s On Golden Pond (1981), Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda, with Henry Fonda.

Linda Hamilton, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Julia Roberts, and Helen Slater had important roles in, respectively, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Tootsie, Mr. Mom, Hook, and The Secret of My Success. However, the focus of those movies was clearly on their leading men, once again respectively, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Keaton, Robin Williams / Dustin Hoffman, and Michael J. Fox.

Overseas, The Hunger Games has also performed remarkably well, but far less so than in North America. It was the top movie at the international box office only on its first weekend out, while its total gross to date is $194 million, or less than 60 percent of its North American cume.

Gary Ross — who will not be returning for the sequel, Catching Fire — co-wrote The Hunger Games’ screenplay with author Suzanne Collins and Breach / Captain Phillips screenwriter Billy Ray. Besides Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games features The Expendables 2 / AWOL / The Last Song’s Liam Hemsworth, Red Dawn / Carmel’s Josh Hutcherson, Movie 43 / What to Expect When You’re Expecting / People Like Us’ Elizabeth Banks, and Wag the Dog / The People vs. Larry Flynt’s Woody Harrelson.

Also in the cast: The Devil Wears Prada’s Stanley Tucci, MASH / Ordinary People’s Donald Sutherland, American Beauty / Loveless’ Wes Bentley, The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising / Race to Witch Mountain’s Alexander Ludwig, Salvation Boulevard / The Healer’s Isabelle Fuhrman, Sitting Babies / Running Wild’s Jack Quaid, and Snow White and the Huntsman / The Girl’s Toby Jones.

Photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

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