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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

'Catching Fire' Is Ready To Roast Cinemas

    One of the biggest surprises of 2012 was the success of The Hunger Games. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Hunger Games broke all kinds of records - from biggest Spring opening to fourth biggest Saturday to sixth biggest opening of all time (3rd at the time of release). When it was all said and done, Hunger Games ended with a $408 million total - and $691 million worldwide, which ranks 14th all time domestic and #1 for a movie from an independent studio - and that is without 3D. By the end of 2012, Hunger Games shocked the world and had out-grossed known popular franchises James Bond, Spider Man, Twilight, Pixar, and Lord of the Rings. Back in 2011 if you called this then you deserve a million dollars, a supermodel girlfriend/boyfriend, a black Ferrari, and your own private island, because you were as bold as Bear Grylls and didn't collapse under pressure from being called an idiot (or worse) and accusations of knowing nothing about box office, and maybe even life. Go, you. One special thing Games had was great legs - no I'm not talking about Lawrence's, but the fact that the movie was able to stick around for so long. Young adult novel movies such as Twilight and Harry Potter, usually open hefty, then fall heftier the next weekend. Hunger Games had a huge curiosity factor which led to the masses coming weekend after weekend and Games being #1 in America for 4 weeks, the first time that has happened since January 2010.
     Now 20 months later, Catching Fire, is set to light Regal's and AMC's everywhere on fire. Catching Fire will be no surprise as everyone and their mother knows it's going to be a monster. Now the debate has gone from "will Hunger Games be a success?" to "how much freaking money will Catching Fire bring in this weekend!?" The answer is "a lot." Emphasis on a lot. Box office analysts and anyone who has a poster of JLaw and/or the Mockingjay on their walls is predicting $160-$180 million for the weekend, with predictions as high as $200 million. Yes, that's a 2. Catching Fire only needs $174.2 million to claim the second biggest opening of all time, and that looks very feasible. Even if it opens to the low end of many projections that's still the 4th or 5th biggest opening of all time. Again, without 3D.
     The big argument now is will Catching Fire be able to stay at the box office party for long? Or will it have too many drinks on opening weekend and stumble the rest of the way? Judging by the fact that Catching Fire is a sequel and is a based off a YA adaption, opening weekend will be so big it'll have its own gravitational pull, but the next weekend will suffer a steep drop, and the week after, and the week after...or will it? If you haven't seen the reviews for Catching Fire yet, they're pretty positive, with many of them raves. The movie currently holds a 93% on RT, which is rare for a blockbuster. That number can go down by Friday, but don't expect it to be by much. With reviews this good, this may incline some people that CF is worth seeing, even if they don't know what the heck it's about. Good reviews don't guarantee butts in the seats and don't guarantee small drops in the subsequent weeks, but they sure don't hurt the movie.
     Another complaint (even by me at one point) has been that CF looks like a carbon-copy of the Hunger Games and doesn't have the curiosity factor luxury of the first. While CF still doesn't have the same curiosity, I've realized the carbon-copy argument has little weight. CF is holding its own with its refreshing visuals, bigger scale, and new characters - though Lionsgate could have marketed them better. And guess what else? No-more-shakey-cam! Go ahead and go wild like I know you already are. The performances in the movie also seem to be getting a lot of praise.
     Also, even though CF will behave like a sequel, it will have Thanksgiving break and even Christmas break to provide some cushion. The biggest challenge for CF is to get back its non-fan audience. Many people saw Hunger Games because it was new and fresh and the buzz came out of the blue. "It was cool seeing Katniss on the screen last year, but why do I need to shell out $11 to see her again?" Though a growing fan base will help offset this a little, in order for CF to get back over $400 million, the curiosity needs to come back. Let's hope Lionsgate's marketing team got the memo.
     I won't know for myself until I see it, but apparently Catching Fire is the event of the year (as with Iron Man 3) and looks to possibly be the biggest movie from now until May 2015. It's still up in the air whether Catching Fire can defy box office logic and make it past $400 million, which would make it only the third franchise (Star Wars and Batman) to have more than one movie above the mark. I personally believe CF will miss $400 million, but not by much. It doesn't matter whether or not Catching Fire reaches that milestone - it's already a success for Lionsgate, Lawrence, and the fans who just want a good adaption, and is poised to end at least #2 for 2013 when it's said and done; it will challenge Iron Man 3 for #1. Expect a nice increase for a top five finish worldwide. It's possible CF could fall below Despicable Me 2, but that's almost as likely as Katniss deciding not to do the games instead because shes scared. We'll see in a few days how big and how masterful Catching Fire really is, but expect for your local theater to be a lot busier than your local Walmart or interstate highway at 5 o'clock this weekend. CF is now committing arson in Brazil and looks to start Wednesday and Friday worldwide, in glorious, but non-surcharging 2D. Rated PG-13 and 146 minutes (yes, that's over 2 1/2 hours).