When does scoring the biggest opening weekend of the year count as a disappointment? Well, when you are part of the hugely successful Hunger Games franchise and your film’s debut dips 22% from the previous instalment, that can be a tad troublesome. So, despite boasting the healthiest opening weekend of the year, with an estimated $123 million, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1‘s first three days were not up to par with expectations. In comparison, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire broke the November opening weekend record last year, taking in $158.1 million. The film had the sixth biggest opening for the month, all behind much-anticipated adaptations of best-selling novels from the Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games franchises.
On the bright side, this was easily the biggest debut of 2014. Unless you buy Paramount’s opening weekend tally for Transformers: Age of Extinction – many in the industry have noted that the numbers were fudged to hit $100 million – this is the first film this year to cross the century mark in its first three days. Internationally, the film made an extra $152 million, so Lionsgate should still be thrilled with the money rolling in. The film also did not show more front-loading than Catching Fire, which means it could still have a lengthy run in theaters. (The lack of a female-skewing competitor like Frozen this year may also work in the its favor.)
However, Mockingjay – Part 1 still did not meet expectations. It debuted below other Part 1s of fantasy adaptations like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 ($125 million) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($138.1 million). Meanwhile, the first two Hunger Games both grossed $400 million domestically and were well-received by critics and audiences, indicating that interest had not waned.
Still, the fact that it didn’t hit Catching Fire‘s record-breaking opening is no surprise. That entry had the benefit of IMAX auditoriums, better reviews, less competition in theaters and also featured those titular games. Meanwhile, Mockingjay is widely regarded as the poorest entry in the trilogy of novels, so the rush-out factor may not have been as big amongst fans of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling series. Match that with the relatively action-free final product and the excitement was not as high. If the film continues along the road of other Hunger Games films, it may even finish below Guardians of the Galaxy, which is currently 2014’s top film in North America.