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First 'Heroine Movie' in Two Decades to Top Four Weekends

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games Stanley Tucci
'Heroine movie': Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games

April 16

The “heroine movie” 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 dystopian 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 Hanks' Saving 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.

The Three Stooges Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), Will Sasso (Curly)
The Three Stooges: Will Sasso (Curly), Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry)

At no. 2, Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly's The Three Stooges scored a somewhat disappointing $17.1 million at 3,477 North American sites for a so-so $4,918 per-theater average according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Overseas prospects aren't exactly the greatest either, but considering that the 20th Century Fox-distributed comedy was budgeted at a relatively modest $30 million, the Farrellys' film should end up in the black after ancillary revenues are tallied.

The Three Stooges features Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), Will Sasso (Curly), Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls). Reviews have been mediocre; the film has a 46 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

At no. 3, Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods drew an estimated $14.85 million at 2,811 locations, averaging $5,283. Actually shot in 2009, Goddard's twist-filled horror flick has a solid 86 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics, which may have helped it to (somewhat surprisingly) land at the higher end of expectations. Even so, The Cabin in the Woods fared worse than the vast majority of cheapo (and poorly reviewed) horror flicks, e.g., the 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street ($32.9 million), The Final Destination ($27.4m), Drag Me to Hell ($15.8 million), and Prom Night ($20.8m).

Written and produced by Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods' features The Avengers' Thor and Snow White and the Huntsman's Huntsman Chris Hemsworth, in addition to Anna Hutchison, Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, and Jesse Williams. The film's rumored (but unconfirmed) budget is $30 million.

Note that brothers Chris and Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) both have movies among the top three on the North American chart. And so does Lionsgate, the distributor of both The Hunger Games and The Cabin in the Woods (originally an MGM release, but the studio went bankrupt).

Rounding out the top five this weekend were James Cameron / Leonardo DiCaprio / Kate Winslet / Gloria Stuart's Titanic 3D with $11.62 million (down 33 percent) for a cume of $44.4 million, and Jason Biggs / Seann William Scott / Chris Klein's comedy American Reunion with $10.7 million (down 50 percent) and a cume of $39.9 million. Both movies performed slightly better than expected (based on Friday figures). The Titanic 3D restoration cost a reported $18 million; American Reunion's budget was a reported $50 million.

Maggie Grace Lockout Guy Pearce
Maggie Grace, Guy Pearce, Lockout

Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror has proven itself more resilient than expected. Down 37 percent, the comedy fantasy grossed $7 million at no. 6, for a total of $49.96 million in North America according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Needless to say, Mirror Mirror will pass the $50 million mark at the domestic box office on Monday. Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, and Armie Hammer star.

As of April 8, Mirror Mirror had collected $40 million overseas. Its key international market is Russia, where it grossed $9.64 million. But the film has also performed relatively well ($2m+) in Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, and Italy. Its reported cost is $85 million.

At no. 7, Jonathan Liebesman / Sam Worthington's Wrath of the Titans drew $6.9 million (down 53 percent) for a cume of $71.25 million. The $150 million-budgeted adventure fantasy has fared much better abroad, having collected an estimated $188 million – or 72.5 percent of its $259 million worldwide take. Without the international market, movies such as Wrath of the Titans would never have gotten made. The film's top overseas markets are Russia ($19.5 million), Mexico ($11.6 million), Brazil ($9.5 million) and the United Kingdom ($8.5 million).

At no. 8 was Channing Tatum / Jonah Hill's 21 Jump Street with $6.8 million (down 32 percent) for a domestic cume of $120.56 million after five weekends. So far much more of a box office hit in the United States than abroad, 21 Jump Street has a foreign cume of $34 million in 19 territories.

Lambasted by critics (22 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top reviewers) and lacking major box office names, the Luc Besson-executive-produced Lockout collected $6.25 million at 2,308 theaters, averaging an embarrassing $2,708 per site despite its mix of brutal violence and family-friendly PG-13 rating. Directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, Lockout stars Mildred Pierce's Guy Pearce and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2's Maggie Grace.

Rounding out the top twelve movies were Dr. Seuss' The Lorax with $3.02 million (down 40 percent), cume: $204.48m; Gareth Evans' The Raid: Redemption with $1 million (+90 percent, after adding 705 locations), but with a dismal $1,138 per-theater average, cume: $2.56m; and Ewan McGregor / Emily Blunt's Salmon Fishing in Yemen with $911k (-8 percent), cume: $6 million.

Maggie Grace / Guy Pearce / Lockout photo: Open Road Films.

April 14 afternoon

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games

In all likelihood, The Hunger Games is going to top the North American box office for the fourth weekend in a row. Starring Winter's Bone / X-Men: First Class' Jennifer Lawrence, Gary Ross' film adaptation of Suzanne Collins bestselling novel is expected to score approximately $20 million at 3,916 theaters by Sunday evening after having taken in $6.45 million on Friday as per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

The most recent movie to achieve that feat was James Cameron / Sam Worthington's Avatar in early 2010. In fact, Avatar stayed 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), Steven Spielberg / Tom Hanks' Saving Private Ryan, James Cameron / Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), George P. Cosmatos / Sylvester Stallone's Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985, which was co-written by Cameron), and Jerry Paris / Steve Guttenberg's Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985).

Now, the last female-centered movie to last at least four consecutive weekends at the top of the North American box office was Curtis Hanson's The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, featuring Rebecca De Mornay, Julianne Moore, and Annabella Sciorra – back in 1992. Do your math. That's two decades before Katniss Everdeen was unleashed.

Besides The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, since 1980 women had key leading roles in only 11 – out of a total of 53 – movies that lasted four or more consecutive weekends at no. 1 in the U.S. and Canada. Prior to The Hunger Games, the last such release featuring a key leading female role came out in late 1997:

  • 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;
  • 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;

Gary Ross – who will not be returning for the sequel, Catching Fire – co-wrote The Hunger Games' screenplay with author Suzanne Collins and Breach / State of Play / Captain Phillips screenwriter Billy Ray. The dystopian adventure drama stars the aforementioned Jennifer Lawrence, in addition to 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 / Zombieland's Woody Harrelson.

Also in the cast: The Devil Wears Prada / The Lovely Bones' Stanley Tucci, Ordinary People / MASH'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.

Jennifer Lawrence / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

The Cabin in the Woods Fran Kranz
Fran Kranz, The Cabin in the Woods

At no. 2 on Friday, April 13, Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly's The Three Stooges brought in $5.62 million at 3,477 sites for a so-so $1,647 per-theater average according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. The Farrellys' comedy is expected to rake in $17.5 million by Sunday evening.

Despite a mediocre 46 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics, The Three Stooges should fare relatively well over the weekend proper thanks to kiddie matinees. The $30 million-budgeted, 20th Century Fox-distributed comedy features Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), Will Sasso (Curly), Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls).

At a close no. 3 on Friday, Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods took in an estimated $5.5 million at 2,811 locations. So far, weekend estimates range between $13 million and $15 million – most likely closer to the former figure, despite the film's generally good reviews. Actually shot in 2009, Goddard's twist-filled horror flick has a solid 86 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Written and produced by Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods' features The Avengers' Thor, Chris Hemsworth, in addition to Anna Hutchison, Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, and Jesse Williams.

Note that brothers Chris and Liam Hemsworth both have movies among the top three on the North American chart. And so does Lionsgate, with both The Hunger Games and The Cabin in the Woods.

Rounding out the top five on Friday were Jason Biggs / Seann William Scott's comedy American Reunion with $3.4 million and James Cameron / Leonardo DiCaprio / Kate Winslet / Gloria Stuart's Titanic 3D with $3.35 million. Both movies should earn around $10.5 million over the weekend.

Lambasted by critics (22 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics) and without any major box office names, the Luc Besson-executive-produced Lockout collected only an estimated $2.22 million at 2,308 theaters on Friday, averaging a paltry $964 per site. With luck, the action / sci-fier's weekend take will reach a dismal $6.5 million. Directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, Lockout stars Mildred Pierce's Guy Pearce and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2's Maggie Grace. This ultra-violent movie, by the way, received a PG-13 rating.

Rounding out the top ten movies were Channing Tatum / Jonah Hill's 21 Jump Street with $2.05 million, Julia Roberts / Lily Collins / Armie Hammer's Mirror Mirror with $2.03 million, Sam Worthington / Ralph Fiennes' Wrath of the Titans with $1.94 million, and the animated Dr. Seuss' The Lorax with $887,000. The Lorax, I should add, has passed the $200 million milestone. Its current domestic total is an estimated $202.35 million.

Fran Kranz / The Cabin in the Woods photo: Diyah Pera / Lionsgate.

April 14 early morning

The Hunger Games will likely top the North American box office for the fourth weekend in a row according to early, rough estimates found at Deadline.com. Gary Ross' film adaptation of Suzanne Collins bestselling novel is expected to gross $20 million at 3,916 theaters over the weekend after taking in an estimated $6.5 million on Friday.

The most recent movie to achieve that feat was James Cameron / Sam Worthington's Avatar in early 2010. In fact, Avatar stayed at the top for seven consecutive weekends.

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), James Cameron / Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), James L. Brooks / Shirley MacLaine / Debra Winger / Jack Nicholson's Terms of Endearment (1983), and Jerry Paris / Steve Guttenberg's Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985).

By the way, the last female-centered movie to last four consecutive weeks or more at the top of the North American box office was Curtis Hanson's The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, featuring Rebecca De Mornay, Julianne Moore, and Annabella Sciorra – back in 1992.

Gary Ross – who will not be returning for the sequel, Catching Fire – co-wrote The Hunger Games' screenplay with author Suzanne Collins and Breach / State of Play / Captain Phillips screenwriter Billy Ray. The dystopian adventure drama stars Winter's Bone / X-Men: First Class' Jennifer Lawrence, 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 Seven Psychopaths / Zombieland's Woody Harrelson.

Also in the cast: The Devil Wears Prada / The Lovely Bones' Stanley Tucci, JFK / MASH' 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 / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' Toby Jones.

Jennifer Lawrence / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

Jesse Williams Kristen Connolly The Cabin in the Woods
Jesse Williams, Kristen Connolly, The Cabin in the Woods

At no. 2 this weekend as per Deadline.com, new entry The Three Stooges is expected to rake in $17.5 million at 3,477 sites by Sunday evening. Friday grosses were an estimated $5.6 million. Despite a mediocre 46 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics, The Three Stooges should fare relatively well over the weekend proper thanks to kiddie matinees. The Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly-directed comedy features Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), Will Sasso (Curly), Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls).

At a close no. 3 on Friday, Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods collected an estimated $5.5 million at 2,811 locations for a weekend total of $13 million. Why the much lower weekend figure for Goddard's film than for The Three Stooges? Well, kiddie flicks perform much better than adult fare on Saturdays and Sundays, and horror movies tend to be quite frontloaded. In other words, Friday – especially Friday the 13th? – tend to be their best day at the box office on opening weekends.

Written and produced by Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods' features The Avengers' Thor, Chris Hemsworth, in addition to Anna Hutchison, Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, and Jesse Williams. Actually shot in 2009, the twist-filled horror flick has a solid 86 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Also worth noting is that both Hemsworth brothers – Liam and Chris – have movies among the top three on the North American chart. And so does Lionsgate, with both The Hunger Games and The Cabin in the Woods.

Rounding out the top five movies are James Cameron / Leonardo DiCaprio / Kate Winslet / Gloria Stuart's Titanic 3D with an estimated $10.5 million for the weekend and $3.4 million for Friday, and Jason Biggs / Seann William Scott's American Reunion, with $3.3 million on Friday and $10 million over the weekend.

The Luc Besson-produced (or rather, executive-produced) Lockout, which was lambasted by critics (22 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics), collected only an estimated $2.4 million at 2,308 theaters on Friday. The action / sci-fier's weekend take should hover around a paltry $6.8 million. Mildred Pierce's Guy Pearce and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2's Maggie Grace star. This ultra-violent movie, by the way, received a PG-13 rating.

Remember, those are early, rough estimates. Official studio estimates will be released on Saturday morning. Weekend estimates come out on Sunday, and weekend box office actuals on Monday.

Jesse Williams / Kristen Connolly / The Cabin in the Woods photo: Diyah Pera / Lionsgate.

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4 Comments to First 'Heroine Movie' in Two Decades to Top Four Weekends

  1. Zac

    That depends on whose expectations. According to the “Los Angeles Times,” “industry watchers” had been expecting “The Three Stooges” would open between $15-$18 million.

    On Friday, Deadline's “sources” were expecting up to $20 million because of solid matinee business. Box Office Mojo also raised that possibility because of kiddie flicks do well on Saturday/Sunday.

    That didn't happen. “The Three Stooges” was up a relatively modest 20% on Saturday.

    Ultimately, for a relatively high-profile pic, a $4,918 per-theater average on opening weekend is “somewhat disappointing” no matter how you cut it.

  2. Dan

    Disapointing? That is not disapointing at all. In fact that's beyond expectations.

  3. George

    LockOut was edited down from an R-rated version that Europe got. Alas Europa has loss its credibility since Taken with Lackluster films like From Paris with Love and Columbiana. I really thought this was Guy Pearce's Chance to become next Big Action star like Liam Neeson. Who's knows it's only the first week.

  4. cjg

    hello? where's linda hamilton in T2?