For the second time in a row, a “Hunger Games” sequel posted the biggest opening weekend of the year, but this time it wasn’t as impressive.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” took in an estimated $123 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to an estimate from distributor Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
On the same weekend last year, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” opened to $158.1 million. In March of 2012, the first “Hunger Games” opened to $152.5 million.
Though the $140 million production starring Jennifer Lawrence is still a hit by any measure, the 22% decline in opening weekend ticket sales from the last installment is a cause for concern at Lions Gate, which has derived much of its stock value recently from the blockbuster success of its young adult franchise.
After the movie’s first shows late Thursday were softer than expected, Lions Gate stock fell 5% Friday to $33.25.
There are a few possible reasons for the movie’s underperformance, including weaker reviews than the prior “Hunger Games” movies and an overall softness at the box office this year. Some have also questioned whether the third and final “Hunger Games” book has enough substance to merit being split into two parts on the big screen — a strategy Lions Gate label Summit Entertainment previously used successfully with “Twilight” and Warner Bros. did with “Harry Potter.”
Malaise wasn’t evident overseas, however, where “Mockingjay” opened to an estimated $152 million, surpassing “Catching Fire” by 4% in the same markets, according to Lions Gate.
No other studio tried to challenge “The Hunger Games” by opening a movie nation-wide this weekend.
By Ben Fritz