Movie Projector: ‘Hunger Games’ could beat biggest ‘Twilight’ debut

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Katniss Everdeen may be engaged in a savage battle in “The Hunger Games,” but there’s little doubt about the victor in a different arena: the box office.

Audience interest in the big-screen adaptation of the literary teen epic is so astronomical that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many ticket sales the movie will sell in its opening weekend. Pre-release audience surveys indicate that the picture could debut with anywhere from $125 million to $150 million.


In that case, the film would have the highest-grossing three-day weekend ever for a nonsequel, not adjusting for inflation. That record is held by Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which grossed $116.1 million on its opening in March 2010.

VIDEO: ‘The Hunger Games’ film review

“The Hunger Games,” which stars 21-year-old Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (‘Winter’s Bone’), is based on the first novel in author Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young-adult trilogy. The film stars Lawrence as Katniss, a 16-year-old who must compete in a battle to the death among two dozen teenagers put on by an oppressive government.

It seems unlikely that “The Hunger Games” will have the biggest opening weekend ever, beating out the $169.2 million that the eighth and final “Harry Potter” film pulled in when it debuted last summer. But the movie does have a good shot at collecting more in its first weekend than either of the ‘Twilight’ films “New Moon” and “Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” whose debuts now rank as the fourth and fifth highest of all time.

Unlike “Twilight,” which appealed strongly to young women, “The Hunger Games” is resonating with all demographics, including males 25 and younger. Heading into the weekend, online ticketing vendor Fandango reported that nearly 2,500 showtimes were already sold out. The film has also received overwhelmingly positive critical reviews: On Thursday morning, it had a 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

PHOTOS: ‘The Hunger Games’ premiere


Lionsgate, which is distributing the film, produced the movie for a little over $80 million after tax credits from North Carolina, where it was shot. The independent studio spent $45 million to market the movie domestically, sending the young cast on an eight-city national mall tour and holding premieres in LA, New York, London, Paris and Berlin.

The film is debuting in most foreign countries this weekend, though Lionsgate sold off the movie’s international distribution rights to various releasing outfits to mitigate its financial risk. As a result, Lionsgate has recouped more than half the film’s production budget, but if the movie is a big hit overseas, the studio will not reap as much of the benefits.


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— Amy Kaufman