When The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 had its much anticipated North American release on November 21st of 2014, it was expected to do very well indeed. That expectation was based upon the box office performance of the previous two films in the series – The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Collectively, the first two releases cemented the story of Katniss Everdeen as one of the highest-grossing female-led film franchises in history with takings of over $1.5 billion from just two installments.
With box office receipts having increased with the second film compared to the first, it has been something of a surprise that this upward trend has not continued with the penultimate installment – Mockingjay Part 1. Though the film has managed to top the box office for the three weeks since its release, it has done so at a lower level to its predecessor - at a time when ticket sales are low across the board and with little competition.
Data from Rentrak – an organisation that specializes in crunching box office numbers – has been reported by the New York Times, and the numbers indicate that within the Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay Part 1 is on track to earn less than Catching Fire with $258 million earned after 17 days in theaters. While that is a more than respectable return for most films, Mockingjay Part 1 is the latest episode in what has become a juggernaut of a film series, and therefore, not only bears the weight of its predecessors, but also sets the stage for the franchise finale.
Studios and pundits are scrambling to account for this Hunger Games dip. Fox News reports that ticket sales are down 19% from the same point of the previous year, and it is certainly the case that box office figures in early December are always a strange beast. There is a predictable lull, due to Thanksgiving holiday plans, and people preparing for Christmas. Additionally, with 'award season' heating up, the appearance of titles with awards buzz already attached – such as this year's The Imitation Game – can skew the figures due to high levels of interest, often on smaller numbers of screens. As these films accumulate awards from critics organizations, interest in those titles increases. This is an annual issue, though, and doesn't account for the more significant drop in ticket sales that cinemas are currently seeing.
Continued economic pressure felt by households is considered to be a notable factor as is the ongoing civil unrest occurring in communities across the U.S in light of recent grand jury findings. As Fox News notes, however, many major releases – such as Into The Woods – have been held back for a Christmas release, meaning that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 actually has no comparable competition currently in theaters. It has topped the box office for three weeks and will likely end the year as 2014's second-highest grossing film after Guardians Of The Galaxy, but its predecessor - Catching Fire - was released just a day later in November of 2013, and the film broke records.
The data from Rentrak, when viewed in the context of the franchise as a whole, implies that rival studios anticipated Mockingjay to outperform the competition, and so avoided its release date – but Katniss simply failed to inspire as many people to turn out to theaters this time around. The integrity of The Hunger Games bubble will face its final test when the closing installment is released over the same weekend – November 20th - in 2015.
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