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'The Hunger Games' Movie: One of Biggest Debuts Ever? + Trailing 'The Dark Knight' & Beating 'Twilight'

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games Josh Hutcherson
The Hunger Games with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson

March 26, '12, update: Gary Ross' highly successful film version of Suzanne Collins' bestseller The Hunger Games took in $152.53 million (including $19.75 million from Thursday midnight screenings) at 4,137 locations in North America this weekend, March 23-25, according to box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. That's about $2.5 million less than Lionsgate's estimates released yesterday morning. The film's per-theater average was $36,871.

Even so, as reported yesterday The Hunger Games had the third biggest debut ever in the U.S. and Canada in terms of box office receipts (ignoring inflation). The futuristic adventure saga starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth is now behind only the $169.2 million earned by David Yates / Daniel Radcliffe / Ralph Fiennes' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and the $158.4 million earned by Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale / Heath Ledger's The Dark Knight.

If inflation is taken into account* – as it always should, for then one would get a better indication of the actual number of a film's ticket sales and, as a result, its popularity – the list of top opening weekends in North America would change quite a bit: The Dark Knight would be the no. 1 movie with approx. $175 million, followed by Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man 3 ($174 million), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($169 million), Johnny Depp / Orlando Bloom / Keira Knightley's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($164 million), and the original Spider-Man ($157 million).

The Hunger Games would thus be no. 6 in line, only slightly ahead of Chris Weitz / Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson / Taylor Lautner's The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($151 million), but quite a bit ahead of Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 ($138 million).

Now, taking IMAX surcharges into consideration – The Hunger Games collected an impressive $10.6 million at 268 IMAX houses – in number of ticket sales the film would be neck and neck with New Moon, though still quite a bit ahead of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, the inflation-adjusted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (which opened in 450 fewer locations in 2001; adjusted domestic gross: $126 million) and Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight (inflation-adjusted $77 million at about 700 fewer theaters in 2008).

And finally, if you take 3D surcharges into account, The Hunger Games would end up neck and neck with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which earned 43 percent of its opening-weekend take from costlier 3D houses.

Hollywood studios should just make it simple by releasing the actual number of ticket sales for their movies. Really. But then, they wouldn't be able to brag about their record-breaking releases all that often.

Director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) co-wrote The Hunger Games' screenplay with novelist Suzanne Collins and Breach / State of Play / Captain Phillips screenwriter Billy Ray.

In addition to X-Men: First Class / Devil You Know's Jennifer Lawrence (a Best Actress Oscar nominee for Debra Granik's Winter's Bone), The Expendables 2 / AWOL / The Last Song's Liam Hemsworth, and Red Dawn / Carmel / Journey 2: The Mysterious Island's Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games features Movie 43 / What to Expect When You're Expecting / Zack and Miri Make a Porno's Elizabeth Banks, 2012 / Friends with Benefits / The Messenger's Woody Harrelson, and Burlesque / Captain America: The First Avenger / Gambit's Stanley Tucci.

Plus: MASH / Horrible Bosses / Ordinary People's Donald Sutherland, American Beauty / Loveless / The Time Being's 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 / The Girl's Toby Jones.

* Remember: those are approximations. Official early 2012 estimates for the average cost of movie tickets in the United States haven't been released yet. Thus, we're using 2011 figures, with the average ticket cost pegged at $7.93. Now, bear in mind that that figure factors in 3D movies; those inflate the yearly average, thus negatively affecting comparisons to successful 2D (and thus [generally] lower-priced) movies such as The Hunger Games.

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

March 26

The Dark Knight Batman Christian Bale
The Dark Knight: Batman (Christian Bale)

In the follow-up post is the list of top ten opening weekends in North America as found at Box Office Mojo. The list is based on box office receipts, not ticket sales. In other words, it's not adjusted for inflation nor does it take into account IMAX/3D surcharges – or lower ticket-costs for children in the cases of, say, Chris Miller's Shrek the Third or the Harry Potter movies.

Had the list been adjusted for inflation, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (with approx. $175 million) would be the no. 1 movie, followed by Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man 3 ($174 million), Daniel Radcliffe / Ralph Fiennes' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($169 million), Johnny Depp / Orlando Bloom / Keira Knightley's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($164 million), and the original Spider-Man (no. 12 on the non-adjusted chart, with approx. $157 million). Gary Ross / Jennifer Lawrence's The Hunger Games would remain slightly ahead of Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson / Taylor Lautner's The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($151 million), and quite a bit ahead of Breaking Dawn - Part 1 ($138 million).

Notice that the only non-sequel to be included on the list is The Hunger Games. (Adjusted for inflation, Spider-Man and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone – with $126 million – would also make the cut.) The only franchises to appear twice on the list are Harry Potter and The Twilight Saga. (If adjusted for inflation, Spider-Man and Pirates of the Caribbean – as a result of the adjusted $132 million earned by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End – would also be there twice.)

By year's end, expect at least two movies to make the top ten list, both sequels: The Dark Knight Rises and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2. Joss Whedon / Chris Evans / Chris Hemsworth's The Avengers might make the cut as well, though that remains to be seen.

Also worth noting, contrary to what I was expecting as late as Friday, The Hunger Games may follow a box office trajectory closer to that of The Dark Knight than to the other sequels on the list – or to the Catherine Hardwicke-directed original Twilight. That means The Hunger Games' first-weekend percentage of its final take at the domestic box office should be considerably lower than that of most movie sequels. The reasons for that are generally positive reviews and quite likely good word-of-mouth. The Hunger Games has an “A” CinemaScore rating.

[Continues on next page. See link below.]

The Dark Knight photo: Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.

Daniel Radcliffe Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2
Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2

  1. David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (July 2011) with $169.18 million. First weekend: 44.4 percent of total. Cume: $381.01 million. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint.
  2. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (July 2008) with $158.41 million. First weekend: 29.7 percent of total. Cume: $533.34 million. Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal.
  3. Gary Ross' The Hunger Games (March 2012) with $155 million. First weekend: 100.0 percent of total. Cume: $37,467 $155 million. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth.
  4. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 (May 2007) with $151.11 million. First weekend: 44.9 percent of total. Cume: $336.53 million. Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco.
  5. Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon (November 2009) with $142.83 million. First weekend: 48.2 percent of total. Cume: $296.62 million. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner.
  6. Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (November 2011) with $138.12 million. First weekend: 49.1 percent of total. Cume: $281.28 million. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner.
  7. Gore Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (July 2006) with $135.63 million. First weekend: 32.0 percent of total. Cume: $423.31 million. Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley.
  8. Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2 (May 2010) with $128.12 million. First weekend: 41.0 percent of total. Cume: $312.43 million. Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson.
  9. David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (November 2010) with $125.01 million. First weekend: 42.2 percent of total. Cume: $295.98 million. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint.
  10. Chris Miller's Shrek the Third (May 2007) with $121.62 million. First weekend: 37.7 percent of total. Cume: $322.71 million. Voice Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Cameron Diaz.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 picture: Jaap Buitendijk / Warner Bros.

March 25

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games movie
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games movie

If estimates are accurate, The Hunger Games has already become Lionsgate's biggest box office hit ever. By Sunday evening it'll have surpassed Michael Moore's Palme d'Or winner Fahrenheit 9/11, the current Lionsgate champ – thanks to Disney's Michael Eisner, who refused to release the anti-George W. Bush/Iraq War film. Moore's political documentary cumed at $119.19 million in 2004 (or about $152 million today).

The Hunger Games is also the biggest March blockbuster ever, far surpassing (in both box office receipts and ticket sales) Tim Burton / Johnny Depp / Mia Wasikowska's Alice in Wonderland's $116.1 million. In fact, it's the biggest non-summer opening ever, ahead of New Moon and Breaking Dawn - Part 1. It's also officially the biggest opening for a non-sequel ever, though as pointed out above, Spider-Man sold more tickets back in 2002.

For comparison's sake: Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight, based on Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novel, collected $69.63 million (approx. $77 million today) at 3,419 locations in Nov. 2008, averaging $20,368 per site. Even taking inflation and IMAX surcharges into account, The Hunger Games sold nearly twice as many tickets as Twilight (at about 700 more locations). Now, whereas females comprise up to 80 percent of the Twilight movies' audience, as per Lionsgate a more balanced 60 percent of first-weekend The Hunger Games ticket-buyers were women. (Originally Summit Entertainment releases, Twilight and its sequels now belong to Lionsgate, which merged with/purchased Summit a few months ago.)

Internationally, The Hunger Games opened much more modestly: an estimated $59.3 million in 67 territories. Lionsgate distributed the film only in North American and the UK. More on that in a follow-up post.

Director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) co-wrote the film's screenplay with Suzanne Collins and Breach / State of Play / Captain Phillips' Billy Ray. In addition to X-Men: First Class / Devil You Know's Jennifer Lawrence (a Best Actress Oscar nominee for Winter's Bone), The Expendables 2 / AWOL / The Last Song's Liam Hemsworth, and Red Dawn / Carmel / Journey 2: The Mysterious Island's Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games features Movie 43 / What to Expect When You're Expecting / Zack and Miri Make a Porno's Elizabeth Banks, 2012 / Friends with Benefits / The Messenger's Woody Harrelson, and Burlesque / Captain America: The First Avenger / Gambit's Stanley Tucci.

Plus: 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, Fellini's Casanova / Horrible Bosses / The Mechanic'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 / The Girl's Toby Jones.

Liam Hemsworth / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

Josh Hutcherson Lenny Kravitz The Hunger Games Woody Harrelson
Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games reportedly cost between $78-80+ million, in addition to $45 million in distribution / marketing expenses. The film's production budget sounds credible, but the reported marketing costs feel suspiciously low. An article in the Los Angeles Times stating that “according to a person familiar with the picture's economics” The Hunger Games needed $100 million to break even seems absurdly off the mark – unless Lionsgate managed to get for itself a one-of-a-kind deal with exhibitors.

On average, studios get 50-55 percent of a film's gross, though usually they take a bigger cut from the opening weekend receipts. Even so, The Hunger Games would have to earn at least $120 million to break even – if Lionsgate were to get itself 66 percent of the film's opening weekend take. And that doesn't include marketing / distribution expenses.

The same Los Angeles Times article claims that “analysts” are predicting that The Hunger Games will eventually earn Lionsgate anywhere between $300 and $400 million. If so, that must include not only the film's domestic box office, but also its international receipts, in addition to worldwide ancillary revenues.

Director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) co-wrote The Hunger Games' screenplay with author Suzanne Collins and Breach / State of Play / Captain Phillips' screenwriter Billy Ray. The film stars X-Men: First Class / Winter's Bone / Devil You Know's Jennifer Lawrence, The Expendables 2 / AWOL / The Last Song's Liam Hemsworth, and Red Dawn / Carmel / The Kids Are All Right's Josh Hutcherson.

Also in the Hunger Games cast: Movie 43 / What to Expect When You're Expecting / Zack and Miri Make a Porno's Elizabeth Banks, 2012 / Friends with Benefits / Wag the Dog's Woody Harrelson, Burlesque / Captain America: The First Avenger's Stanley Tucci, and Salvation Boulevard / The Healer's Isabelle Fuhrman.

Plus: The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising / Race to Witch Mountain's Alexander Ludwig, Sitting Babies / Running Wild's Jack Quaid, Ordinary People / Horrible Bosses' Donald Sutherland, Loveless / The Time Being's Wes Bentley, and Snow White and the Huntsman / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' Toby Jones.

Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

March 24

The Hunger Games movie heroine Jennifer Lawrence Katniss
The Hunger Games movie set: Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen

What would Hollywood studios do without inflation and other movie-ticket-cost-boosting accoutrements such as 3D and IMAX? How many records would be broken each year? Each decade?

Imagine if the United States were suffering from hyperinflation like Germany in the '20s. That would be a Hollywood p.r. dream come true. Every weekend, studios and box office analysts would be heralding a new record-breaking debut: “A Thousand Words marks Eddie Murphy's most successful opening weekend ever!” “In ten days, John Carter earns more than all Harry Potter movies combined!” “Project X bigger than Avatar!"

Gary Ross' film version of Suzanne Collins' bestseller The Hunger Games is a major blockbuster. That's undeniable. To earn an estimated $68.25 million in North America over the course of one single day (including $19.75 million from Thursday midnight screenings) is a remarkable feat.

Yet, The Hunger Games is not the fifth most watched movie on opening day – behind Daniel Radcliffe / Ralph Fiennes' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and the three Twilight sequels starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner: The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, and Wednesday-debutante The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

At no. 6 on the Box Office Mojo chart of biggest opening-day grosses ever, Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale / Heath Ledger's The Dark Knight debuted with $67.16 million in summer 2008. But see, we're no longer in 2008. You can't compare box office grosses of movies released in different years – or, for that matter, different decades – without taking inflation (and, as the case may be, 3D/IMAX surcharges) into account.

For the sake of this simple exercise in box office logistics, let's ignore IMAX even though at midnight screenings alone The Hunger Games earned $1.3 million at IMAX theaters. Let's also ignore the fact that on Friday, Ross' futuristic actioner was screened at 270 IMAX locations, whereas The Dark Knight opened at a mere 94 IMAX screens.

So, taking only movie inflation into account, The Dark Knight raked in approximately $74 million in 2012 dollars, or nearly 10 percent more than The Hunger Games. Since both movies target the same audience age-range (as opposed to half-priced children), that would roughly translate into 10 percent more ticket sales for The Dark Knight. Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire / Kirsten Dunst's Spider-Man 3 (2007), for its part, scored about $69 million in 2012 dollars, thus also ahead of The Hunger Games.

Now, if IMAX is taken into account, it's quite possible that The Hunger Games would also fall behind at least a couple of other titles: Michael Bay / Shia LaBeouf / Megan Fox's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009; 169 IMAX locations) and Gore Verbinski / Johnny Depp / Orlando Bloom / Keira Knightley's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), which took in $65.5 million and $67.66 million, respectively, when adjusted to 2012 dollars.

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

The Hunger Games Liam Hemsworth Gale Hawthorne
The Hunger Games: Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne

The Hunger Games averaged $16,497 at 4,137 locations. Without taking inflation into account, that's the fourth-highest opening-day per-theater average ever, behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (which had the added advantage of 3D surcharges), New Moon, and Breaking Dawn 1. Even while ignoring IMAX surcharges, if inflation is taken into account The Hunger Games falls behind a handful of other titles, such as The Dark Knight ($15,384; $17,014 today) and George Lucas / Ewan McGregor / Natalie Portman's Revenge of the Sith ($13,661 in 2005; $16,912 today), which opened at 3,661 locations.

Distributed by Lionsgate, The Hunger Games will surely become the studio's biggest box office hit ever – possibly by Sunday evening. Michael Moore's Palme d'Or winner Fahrenheit 9/11 is the current Lionsgate champ – thanks to Disney's Michael Eisner, who refused to release the anti-George W. Bush/Iraq War film – with a $119.19 million cume in 2004 (or about $152 million today).

The Hunger Games reportedly cost $78 million, in addition to $45 million in distribution / marketing expenses. The production budget sounds credible, but the reported marketing costs feel suspiciously modest.

Director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) co-wrote the screenplay with Suzanne Collins and Breach / State of Play / Captain Phillips' Billy Ray. The Hunger Games stars X-Men: First Class / Devil You Know's Jennifer Lawrence (a Best Actress Oscar nominee for Winter's Bone), The Expendables 2 / AWOL / The Last Song's Liam Hemsworth, and Red Dawn / Carmel / Journey 2: The Mysterious Island's Josh Hutcherson.

Also in the Hunger Games cast: Movie 43 / What to Expect When You're Expecting / Zack and Miri Make a Porno's Elizabeth Banks, 2012 / Friends with Benefits / The Messenger's Woody Harrelson, Burlesque / Captain America: The First Avenger / Gambit's Stanley Tucci, and Salvation Boulevard / The Healer's Isabelle Fuhrman.

Plus: The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising / Race to Witch Mountain's Alexander Ludwig, Sitting Babies / Running Wild's Jack Quaid, Fellini's Casanova / Horrible Bosses / The Mechanic'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 / The Girl's Toby Jones.

Liam Hemsworth / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

Gary Ross The Hunger Games
Gary Ross, The Hunger Games

Gary Ross' film version of Suzanne Collins' bestseller The Hunger Games took in $155 million (including $19.75 million from Thursday midnight screenings) at 4,137 locations in North America this weekend, March 23-25, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

In terms of box office receipts (ignoring inflation), The Hunger Games had the third biggest debut ever in the U.S. and Canada. The futuristic adventure saga starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth was behind only the $169.2 million earned by Daniel Radcliffe / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint / Ralph Fiennes' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and the $158.4 million earned by Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale / Heath Ledger's The Dark Knight.

If inflation is taken into account, The Hunger Games also falls behind Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire / Kirsten Dunst's Spider-Man 3 and the original Spider-Man, and Gore Verbinski / Johnny Depp / Orlando Bloom / Keira Knightley's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner's The Twilight Saga: New Moon would remain about $4 million behind.

Even taking IMAX surcharges into consideration – The Hunger Games collected an impressive $10.6 million at 268 IMAX houses – in number of ticket sales, the film would still be slightly ahead of New Moon and quite a bit ahead of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 and the inflation-adjusted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (which opened in 450 fewer locations in 2001).

Things get more complicated when dealing with per-theater averages. The Hunger Games' was $37,467, the second highest after Deathly Hallows 2's $38,672, which had the advantage of 3D surcharges. Without that 3D-inflating effect, The Hunger Games would have been no. 1 – well, except for the fact that it also has IMAX surcharges in its favor. Especially if inflation is taken into account, that means The Dark Knight (screened at only 94 IMAX sites) would be the no. 1 movie in that regard. Its unadjusted average is $36,283.

Also ahead of The Hunger Games would be Spider-Man 3, the original Spider-Man, Dead Man's Chest, New Moon, and possibly Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Liam Hemsworth / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

March 24 early morning

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games Woody Harrelson Elizabeth Banks
Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games should open with approximately $66 million at 4,137 locations in North America on Friday, according to Deadline.com. West Coast showings haven't been tallied yet, so figures could go up or down somewhat before official studio estimates are released Saturday morning.

According to Deadline's “sources,” The Hunger Games will likely score around $138 million by Sunday evening – placing it on a par with the most recent Twilight movie, Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, while easily surpassing (both in box office receipts and ticket sales) the Tim Burton / Johnny Depp / Mia Wasikowska fantasy Alice in Wonderland – $116.1 million at 3,728 locations in 2010 – to become the biggest March blockbuster ever.

Now, if The Hunger Games truly reaches $138 million, it'll have collected less than 50 percent of its total weekend take on opening day: a rarity for such big openers, though the vast majority of those are frontloaded sequels such as those for the Harry Potter and Twilight movies.

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight is an exception to that rule. The sequel to Nolan's Batman Begins grossed $67.16 million on Friday (including $18.5 million from midnight screenings), or about 42 percent of the film's $158 million take on its debut weekend. Daniel Radcliffe / Ralph Fiennes' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Friday gross represented 54 percent of the film's take on its opening weekend; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1's represented 52 percent.

A non-sequel, Alice in Wonderland's Friday take represented 35 percent of the fantasy / adventure's opening-weekend gross – but that was chiefly because kiddie flicks perform infinitely better on the weekend proper. Even the first Twilight, a non-sequel that like The Hunger Games was based on a bestselling novel for young adults, earned 52 percent of its opening-weekend total on its first day out.

One key difference – to justify The Hunger Games' expected box office stamina – could be the generally positive reviews and solid word-of-mouth. The Gary Ross-directed futuristic adventure drama received much better notices than the Catherine Hardwicke / Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson romantic fantasy Twilight: 82 percent vs. 53 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. Back in November 2008, Twilight opened with $69 million (about $77 million today) at 3,419 theaters – about 700 fewer locations than The Hunger Games.

Distributed by Lionsgate, The Hunger Games is set to become the studio's biggest box office hit ever – by a wide margin. It reportedly cost $78 million, in addition to $45 million in distribution / marketing expenses. The production budget is believable, but the reported marketing costs seem suspiciously modest.

Director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) co-wrote the screenplay with Shattered Glass / Breach's Billy Ray, and the novel's author, Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games 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 Red Dawn / Carmel / Journey 2: The Mysterious Island's Josh Hutcherson.

Also in the Hunger Games cast: Movie 43 / What to Expect When You're Expecting / Zack and Miri Make a Porno's Elizabeth Banks, 2012 / Friends with Benefits / The Messenger's Woody Harrelson, The Devil Wears Prada / The Lovely Bones / Gambit's Stanley Tucci, and Salvation Boulevard / The Healer's Isabelle Fuhrman.

Plus: The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising / Race to Witch Mountain's Alexander Ludwig, Sitting Babies / Running Wild's Jack Quaid, Fellini's Casanova / Horrible Bosses / The Mechanic'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 / The Girl's Toby Jones.

Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

March 23

The Hunger Games Josh Hutcherson
Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games to beat the $138 million opening-weekend debut of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1? According to Deadline.com, that's what “rival studios” are predicting based on matinee screenings. Now, before The Hunger Games fans start rejoicing and Twilight Saga fans start suffering seizures, let's chill a bit. Those rough, early predictions have oftentimes been quite a bit off the mark. For instance, just a few weeks ago The Lorax raked in about $15 million more than expected based on Friday figures. Other movies bring in way less. In other words, it's just too early to tell, really. (Check out The Hunger Games clips featuring President Snow, Seneca Crane, Katniss Everdeen, and Peeta.]

What seems pretty certain is that The Hunger Games will surpass Tim Burton / Johnny Depp / Mia Wasikowska's Alice in Wonderland's $116.1 million opening-weekend take in March 2010, thus becoming the record-holder for the month of March – even in number of ticket sales, as Alice in Wonderland was released in costlier 3D houses. Thanks to its broader audience reach and much better reviews (82 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics), The Hunger Games will also easily beat Catherine Hardwicke / Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson's Twilight (53 percent approval rating), which opened with $69 million (about $77 million today) in November 2008.

I have to admit I wasn't expecting that to happen even a mere few weeks ago.

The Hunger Games was directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville), from a screenplay by Ross, Shattered Glass / Breach's Billy Ray, and the novel's author, Suzanne Collins. The film 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 Red Dawn / Carmel / Journey 2: The Mysterious Island's Josh Hutcherson.

Also in the Hunger Games cast: Movie 43 / What to Expect When You're Expecting / Zack and Miri Make a Porno's Elizabeth Banks, 2012 / Friends with Benefits / The Messenger's Woody Harrelson, The Devil Wears Prada / The Lovely Bones / Gambit's Stanley Tucci, and Salvation Boulevard / The Healer's Isabelle Fuhrman.

Plus: 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 / The Girl's Toby Jones.

Josh Hutcherson / The Hunger Games photo: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

The Hunger Games movie Katniss Jennifer Lawrence
The Hunger Games movie Katniss: Jennifer Lawrence

If you look at the top ten midnight openings (in terms of box office receipts, not ticket sales) in North America (please scroll down), you'll notice that all but one – Gary Ross' The Hunger Games – is a sequel. Those tend to be quite frontloaded, i.e., fans flock to the first screenings of their favorite film franchise. Hence, midnight and opening-day box office figures generally represent a higher-than-usual percentage of a film's opening-weekend box office take.

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight is an exception to that rule. The sequel to Batman Begins grossed $67.16 million on Friday (including $18.5 million from midnight screenings), or about 42 percent of the film's $158 million take on its debut weekend.

For comparison's sake, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Friday gross represented 54 percent of the film's take on its opening weekend; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1's represented 52 percent. A non-sequel, Tim Burton / Mia Wasikowska / Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland's Friday take represented 35 percent of the fantasy / adventure's opening-weekend gross.

Although The Hunger Games isn't a sequel, it'll probably perform in a similar vein to the movie sequels found on the top ten list below. That's because The Hunger Games' buzz is a result of the novel's immense popularity; fans of the novel (and those who've gotten turned on by the ensuing buzz) have flocked to midnight screenings and will flock to today's screenings.

Here's a comparison: Based on Stephenie Meyer's bestseller, Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight opened with $35.97 million on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008; that represented 52 percent of the film's take on its first weekend out. Expect The Hunger Games to follow a similar pattern.

  1. David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - $43.5 million (Daniel Radcliffe / Ralph Fiennes / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint)
  2. Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 - $30.3 million (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner)
  3. David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $30.1 million (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner)
  4. Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon - $26.3 million (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner)
  5. David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - $24 million (Daniel Radcliffe / Ralph Fiennes / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint)
  6. David Yates' Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - $22.2 million (Daniel Radcliffe / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint)
  7. Gary Ross' The Hunger Games - $19.7 million (Jennifer Lawrence / Liam Hemsworth / Josh Hutcherson)
  8. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight - $18.5 million (Christian Bale / Heath Ledger / Maggie Gyllenhaal)
  9. George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith - $16.5 million (Ewan McGregor / Natalie Portman / Hayden Christensen)
  10. Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - $16 million (Shia LaBeouf / Megan Fox / Josh Duhamel)

In addition to 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, The Hunger Games features the following: Movie 43 / Man on a Ledge's Elizabeth Banks, Rampart / The People vs. Larry Flynt's Woody Harrelson, The Devil Wears Prada / The Lovely Bones / Gambit's Stanley Tucci, MASH / Ordinary People's Donald Sutherland, and Salvation Boulevard / The Healer's Isabelle Fuhrman.

Also in the cast: The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising / Race to Witch Mountain's Alexander Ludwig, Sitting Babies / Running Wild's Jack Quaid, American Beauty / Loveless / The Time Being's Wes Bentley, and Snow White and the Huntsman / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets / The Girl's Toby Jones.

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

Top Ten Midnight Screenings source: Box Office Mojo.

Previous post

The Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence Katniss
The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Lionsgate's The Hunger Games opened to terrific figures: an estimated $19.74 million at midnight screenings held at 2,565 locations in North America. Those are truly outstanding numbers for a non-sequel (officially the best ever), non-summer opening. Starring future film faves Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, the original Twilight opened with $7 million at midnight screenings in November 2008. (I couldn't find information on the number of theaters showing Twilight at midnight. Obviously, that can radically affect a movie's box office take.)

Now, has The Hunger Games truly beat Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight's midnight take as box office pundits have been heralding everywhere you look? Well, not exactly.

Back in summer 2008, The Dark Knight opened with $18.5 million at 3,040 midnight screenings. That would translate into approximately $20.5 million today. In other words, although “inflation-adjusting” can be tricky and the midnight figures for the two movies are very close, it's quite likely that The Dark Knight sold more tickets than The Hunger Games. Having said that, let me add that The Hunger Games would still hold the higher per-theater average ($7,695 vs. The Dark Knight's inflation-adjusted $6,743), as it was screened in about 500 fewer locations.

According to Box Office Mojo, at 4,137 theaters beginning today, The Hunger Games boasts “the widest release ever for a non-sequel and for a movie released by a non-major studio (in this case, it's from mid-major studio Lionsgate).”

The Hunger Games was directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville), from a screenplay by Ross, Shattered Glass / Breach's Billy Ray, and Suzanne Collins, based on Collins' own dystopian adventure novel. The film 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.

Also in the Hunger Games cast: Movie 43 / Man on a Ledge's Elizabeth Banks, Rampart / The People vs. Larry Flynt's Woody Harrelson, The Devil Wears Prada / The Lovely Bones / Gambit's Stanley Tucci, and Salvation Boulevard / The Healer's Isabelle Fuhrman.

Plus: 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 / The Girl's Toby Jones.

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

March 22

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Daniel Radcliffe Emma Watson Rupert Grint
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The worldwide box office for all movies released on planet Earth cumed at $32.6 billion in 2011, up 3 percent from 2010. The domestic (US/Canada) box office was down 4 percent to $10.2 billion, while the international box office was up 7 percent to $22.4 billion according to figures released by the Motion Picture Association of America. It's unclear how currency fluctuations affected the international box office US dollar figure.

What those numbers show is the fast-increasing importance of the international box office – not only to local productions, but also to the product coming out of Hollywood factories. In fact, if it weren't for Chinese, Japanese, German, Mexican, French, Australian, etc. moviegoers, mega-budget productions such as John Carter, The Lone Ranger, Avatar, and those in the Transformers, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises either would never have gotten off the ground or would have been made on the cheap.

From 2010 to 2011, the average ticket price in North America increased by 1 percent to $7.93. Approximately 1.28 billion movie tickets were sold in 2011, compared to 1.34 billion in 2010. That's the lowest figure so far this century. Even so, more Americans and Canadians went to the movies than to sports events and theme parks combined.

Japan remains the biggest market outside North America, generating $2.3 billion in movie-ticket sales, followed by China's $2 billion – a 35 percent increase from last year, France's near-$2 billion, the UK's $1.7 billion, and India's $1.4 billion.

China was up 35 percent compared to 2010, when ticket sales in that country were up more than 40 percent compared to 2009. Now you can see why the MPAA is pushing so hard for the Chinese government to open up their movie houses to American product. Don't be too shocked if in the not-so-distant future, American movies are made for the Chinese market, which will be the most profitable on the planet.

David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was the biggest worldwide box office hit in 2011, grossing $1,328.1 billion. Deathly Hallows 2 stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Ralph Fiennes. The last installment in the Harry Potter franchise was followed by Michael Bay / Shia LaBeouf's Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Rob Marshall / Johnny Depp / Penélope Cruz's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Bill Condon / Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson / Taylor Lautner's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1.

To date, the 2012 domestic box office is 14 percent ahead of last year. However, it's still down 10 percent compared to 2010 during the same period – when James Cameron's Avatar was breaking box office records.

Shia LaBeouf Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Shia LaBeouf, Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Below is the list of the top ten movies in North America in 2011 in terms of box office receipts (though not necessarily in number of tickets sold).

Most of those movies were shown in box-office-inflating 3D and/or IMAX screens. For instance, the top two, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, received a solid boost from 3D screenings as tickets for those cost anywhere between 25%-50 percent more than for movies shown in regular format at regular movie theaters. I should add that Brad Bird / Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Guy Ritchie / Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows aren't included on the list because a large bulk of their total gross came in 2012.

And finally, it's worth noting that the top ten movies in North America in 2011 grossed $2,439.48 billion – or about 24 percent of the domestic box office total for 2011. No less than 610 movies were screened last year.

So, next time you complain about Hollywood having lost its imagination, that there are too many sequels, too many reboots, too many adaptations of comic books, spend a few minutes looking at box office charts – not only in the U.S. and Canada, but around the world – and you'll see that it's not a case of lack of imagination, but mere good business sense.

  • David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 with $381 million (Daniel Radcliffe / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint / Ralph Fiennes)
  • Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark of the Moon with $352.39 (Shia LaBeouf / Rosie Huntington-Whiteley / Josh Duhamel)
  • Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 with $274.84 million (Kristen Stewart / Robert Pattinson / Taylor Lautner)
  • Todd Phillips' The Hangover Part II with $254.46 million (Bradley Cooper / Zach Galifianakis / Ed Helms / Justin Bartha)
  • Rob Marshall's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with $241.07 million (Johnny Depp / Penélope Cruz / Geoffrey Rush)
  • Justin Lin's Fast Five with $209.83 million (Vin Diesel / Paul Walker / Jordana Brewster / Dwayne Johnson)
  • John Lasseter's Cars 2 with $191.45 million (with the voices of Owen Wilson / Larry the Cable Guy / Michael Caine)
  • Kenneth Branagh's Thor with $181.03 million (Chris Hemsworth / Natalie Portman / Tom Hiddleston / Anthony Hopkins)
  • Rupert Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes with $176.76 million (James Franco / Freida Pinto / Andy Serkis)
  • Joe Johnston's Captain America: The First Avenger with $176.65 million (Chris Evans / Hayley Atwell / Tommy Lee Jones)

Shia LaBeouf / Transformers: Dark of the Moon photo: Mark Fellman / Paramount Pictures

Daniel Radcliffe / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 photo: Jaap Buitendijk / Warner Bros.

March 20

Jennifer Lawrence Liam Hemsworth The Hunger Games
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), The Hunger Games

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.

  1. David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) with $169.2 million (Daniel Radcliffe / Emma Watson / Rupert Grint / Ralph Fiennes)
  2. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) with $158.4 million (Christian Bale / Heath Ledger / Maggie Gyllenhaal)
  3. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 (2007) with $151.1 million (Tobey Maguire / Kirsten Dunst / James Franco)
  4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) with $142.8 million (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner)
  5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) with $138.1 million
  6. Gore Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) with $135.6 million (Johnny Depp / Orlando Bloom / Keira Knightley)
  7. Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2 (2010) with $128.1 million (Robert Downey Jr / Gwyneth Paltrow / Scarlett Johansson)
  8. David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) with $125 million
  9. Chris Miller's Shrek the Third (2007) with $121.6 million (voices of Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas)
  10. 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.

March 17 p.m.

Channing Tatum 21 Jump Street
Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street

As expected, Phil Lord and Chris Miller's 21 Jump Street topped the North American box office on Friday, March 16, grossing $13.1 million (a respectable $4,197 per theater) according to studio estimates. Written by Inglourious Basterds actor and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World screenwriter Michael Bacall, and featuring Channing Tatum, Moneyball's Best Supporting Actor nominee Jonah Hill, Brie Larson, and Dave Franco, the action comedy is expected to take in approximately $35 million at 3,121 theaters over the weekend.

If word-of-mouth is good and Sony Pictures keeps plugging its (and MGM's) $45 million movie (not including marketing / distribution expenses), then it's certainly possible that 21 Jump Street will pass the $100 million mark before hitting the home video market. Last year, Sony's R-rated comedy Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, and Jason Segel, opened with $31.6 million and went on to gross $100.2 million domestically.

Here's another box office comparison, but to a previous small-to-big screen adaptation: though an action-thriller, S.W.A.T. opened with considerably more impressive $37.06 million in 2003 (or about $49 million today). Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jeremy Renner were featured in Clark Johnson's eventual $116 million grosser (made for $80m).

21 Jump Street is the second Channing Tatum movie to open strongly so far this year. Co-starring Rachel McAdams, Michael Sucsy's romantic melodrama The Vow debuted with $41.2 million in early February. Tatum will soon be seen in Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike, opposite Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn, Matt Bomer, and Matthew McConaughey; and Jon M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliation, co-starring Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis.

The popular late '80s television series 21 Jump Street starred Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, Dustin Nguyen, and Steven Williams. Both Depp and DeLuise make cameos in the 21 Jump Street feature, which has turned the straight cop drama into a farcical comedy. As mentioned in my previous box office post, that's cosmic justice. After all, Depp toplines Tim Burton's comedy-fantasy Dark Shadows, an upcoming feature film based on the late '60s Gothic drama TV series.

Also in the 21 Jump Street cast: Bridesmaids' Ellie Kemper, Rob Riggle and Ice Cube.

Channing Tatum / 21 Jump Street photo: Scott Garfield / Columbia TriStar.

Susan Sarandon Jeff Who Lives at Home
Susan Sarandon, Jeff, Who Lives at Home

At no. 2 on Friday, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax took in a spring-break-assisted $6.7 million (about $400,000 less than the “rough” estimates posted last night) according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. The widely panned animated 3D feature should reach around $26-$28 million for the weekend.

Andrew Stanton's $250 million-budgeted sci-fier / actioner John Carter is expected to plummet 55 percent from last weekend, after grossing $4 million (down 59 percent) on Friday and – according to early estimates – $13.6 million by Sunday evening. John Carter's ten-day cume should be an underwhelming $53 million. Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, and Willem Dafoe star.

Rounding out the top six movies at the North American box office on Friday were the widely panned teen flick Project X with $1.53 million, the just as widely panned Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words with $1.15 million, and the equally widely panned flag-waving actioner Act of Valor with $1.12 million.

At only 382 locations, Will Ferrell's Lionsgate-distributed Spanish-language Casa de Mi Padre opened at no. 8, with a respectable – though hardly phenomenal – $760,000, or $1,990 per theater. For an English-language film, that would be a poor showing, but for a film with dialogue in a language other than English (and with mostly poor reviews to boot), then that performance is not bad at all as most audiences can't read subtitles (or anything else, for that matter). Matt Piedmont directed Casa de Mi Padre, which also features Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Genesis Rodriguez, and Pedro Armendáriz Jr., who died last December.

The Paramount Vantage release Jeff, Who Lives at Home opened with a highly disappointing $264,000 at 254 locations, averaging only $1,039 per site. The well-received comedy about men who refuse to grow up (is there any other kind in current movie comedies?) was directed by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass, and features Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Rae Dawn Chong, and Linda Greer. Jeff, Who Lives at Home has a 78 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Susan Sarandon / Jeff, Who Lives at Home photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / Paramount Pictures.

March 17 early morning

21 Jump Street Channing Tatum Jonah Hill
Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street

As expected during this spring-break week(end), 21 Jump Street topped the North American box office on Friday, March 16, grossing $13 million according to early estimates found at Deadline.com. Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller from a screenplay by Michael Bacall, and featuring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Brie Larson, and Dave Franco, the action comedy is expected to take in $35 million at 3,121 theaters over the weekend.

If those estimates are correct, that would be a solid – though hardly blockbuster – figure for an R-rated non-sequel. If word-of-mouth is good and Sony Pictures keep plugging their (and MGM's) $45 million movie (not including marketing / distribution expenses), then it's certainly possible that 21 Jump Street will pass the $100 million mark. Last year, Sony's R-rated comedy Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, and Jason Segel, opened with $31.6 million and went on to gross $100.2 million domestically.

Another comparison: S.W.A.T., another small-to-big screen adaptation – though an action-thriller, not a comedy – opened with $37.06 million in 2003 (or about $49 million today). Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jeremy Renner were featured in Clark Johnson's eventual $116 million grosser (made for $80m).

21 Jump Street is the second Channing Tatum movie to perform well in 2012. Co-starring Rachel McAdams, Michael Sucsy's romantic melodrama The Vow opened with $41.2 million in early February. Tatum will be seen later this year in Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike, opposite Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn, Matt Bomer, and Matthew McConaughey; and Jon M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliation, with Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis.

Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, Dustin Nguyen, and Steven Williams starred in the popular late '80s television series. Both Depp and DeLuise make cameos in the 21 Jump Street feature, which, as mentioned above, has turned the cop drama into a comedy. That's cosmic justice, as Depp stars in Tim Burton's comedy-fantasy Dark Shadows, an upcoming feature film based on the late '60s Gothic drama series.

Also in the 21 Jump Street cast: Bridesmaids' Ellie Kemper, Rob Riggle and Ice Cube.

At no. 2 on Friday, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax took in an estimated (spring-break-assisted) $7.1 million and should reach around $28 million for the weekend. Its cume after three weekends will then total something close to $165 million.

John Carter will be lucky if it reaches half that amount by the end of its North American run. Andrew Stanton's $250 million-budgeted sci-fier/actioner is expected to plummet 55 percent from last weekend, grossing $3.9 million on Friday and $13.6 million by Sunday evening. Its ten-day cume should be a modest $53 million. Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, and Willem Dafoe star.

Rounding out the top five on Friday were the widely panned teen flick Project X with $1.5 million and the just as widely panned Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words with $1.1 million.

Remember, those are early, rough estimates. Official Friday estimates come out on Saturday morning. Weekend estimates on Sunday morning. Weekend box office actuals on Monday.

Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street photo: Scott Garfield / Columbia TriStar.

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3 Comments to 'The Hunger Games' Movie: One of Biggest Debuts Ever? + Trailing 'The Dark Knight' & Beating 'Twilight'

  1. Gemma

    Not going to lie, but Breaking Dawn part 1 smashes all films that have just came out and that came out at the same time as Breaking Dawn part 1. Breaking Dawn part 2 will smash every film that comes out this year and for many years to come. Its just like peoples dreams coming to a reality. No matter who says what about it, twilight saga: is the best saga that has been out in such a long time, everywhere you go people are talking about it. No one will ever forget this phenomenal thing that has been created in this world. So much drama, and romance in one film, a wish come true if I am being honest. I will never stop watching the films that have been created on twilight because they are truly amazing. I know that my heart will be broken when no more films are being made, so I am just going to hold on to what is being made right now and what has been made. And I am sure that all the other twilight fans are with me on this!(: &If you are going to bad mouth twilight then don't bother writing it down on this comment because I am really not interested unless you ave something amazing to say about all the films(: Thanks.

  2. xxx

    Its NOT worth your Money ….no chemistry, no emotions..if you battle for your Life shouldn't there be some feelings involved….and when the fighting start it just drags , drags and more dragging

  3. xxx

    It was a huge disapointment…and it cost more than Twilight. I wish I would have stayed in Bed