Box office: 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay' eyes franchise-low $102M debut

5 Things You Didn't Know About 'The Hunger Games'
5 Things You Didn't Know About 'The Hunger Games'

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2 is doing sizeable business at the North American box office, although it will close out the franchise with the lowest debut of any title in Lionsgate's YA film series, starring Jennifer Lawrence as the invincible Katniss Everdeen.

The $150 million tentpole grossed roughly $46 million Friday from 4,175 theaters for a projected $102 million weekend. While that's a whopping number, it won't match the $121.9 million domestic opening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 on the same weekend a year ago, and is more than 34 behind the massive $158 million debut of sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire two years ago.

Overseas, Mockingjay -- Part 2 is getting the widest day-and-date release of any film this year to date as it rolls out in 87 markets, including China. Projections show the film opening to nearly $150 million internationally for a global debut of $251 million.

The tentpole has already racked up $43 million since opening midweek in some markets, and hopes to do mega business internationally. In Germany, its opening day of $3.3 million was up 30 percent over Mockingjay 2. In the U.K., it debuted Thursday to $3 million.

In 2012, The Hunger Games made history when launching to $152 million in North America, then one of the top openings of all time and the best showing ever for a movie featuring a female lead. It was also a defining moment for Lionsgate, in addition to catapulting Lawrence to fame.

Mockingjay – Part 2, based on the second half of Suzanne Collins' third book, follows Katniss as she fights against the corrupt government of Panem and its ruthless leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Catching Fire helmer Francis Lawrence returns to direct, and the film also stars Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Some box-office observers are questioning whether it was wise to break the final book into two movies, both of which have received lukewarm reviews compared to the first two installments (audiences liked Mockingjay 2 better than critics, giving it an A- CinemaScore). Friday's audience was older, with more than 60 percent of the audience over the age of 25.

Opening nationwide opposite Mockingjay 2 are Jonathan Levine's holiday comedy The Night Before, starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie, and The Secret in Their Eyes, starring Julia Roberts, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman.

Sony's Night Before, following three friends who reunite for their traditional Christmas Eve rager, is on course to earn roughly $10 million from 2,960 theaters after grossing $3.6 million Friday. The $26 million, R-rated comedy is looking to come in No. 4 after Mockingjay 2 and holdoversSpectre ($14 million-plus) and The Peanuts Movie ($12 million-plus).

Secret in Their Eyes, STX Entertainment's second release after sleeper hit The Gift, is eyeing a $7.1 million opening from 2,392 locations despite its all-star cast. The revenge thriller could mark the worst opening of Roberts' career for a film opening in more than 2,000 theaters, not accounting for inflation.

The film follows a D.A. investigator (Roberts) whose life is upended when her daughter is murdered. Two colleagues, an FBI investigator (Ejiofor) and a prosecutor (Kidman), come to her aid but the killer eludes justice. More than a decade later, a new lead is uncovered and the trio vow to avenge the crime. STX partnered with Route One Entertainment in paying $6.5 million for domestic rights to the indie film, which IM Global is handling overseas.

Secret in Their Eyes hopes to serve as a date-night offering for older adults throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, although poor reviews and a B- CinemaScore could make the going tough. Older females are the key demo, with 40 percent of Friday ticket buyers over the age of 50.

The movie is the latest fall title boasting big stars to struggle. Angelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt'sBy the Sea, expanding into a total of 126 theaters in its second weekend, is faring miserably for a projected $174,000 weekend gross and location average of $1,380.

One film hoping to prove an exception is Todd Haynes' awards contender Carol, starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler. The Weinstein Co. is opening Carol, a lesbian drama set in the 1950s, in four theaters in New York and Los Angles this weekend, and so far, it's doing stellar business for a projected $250,190 weekend and screen average of $62,548, one of the best of the year to date.

Director Brian Helgeland's Legend, starring Tom Hardy, also opens in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York for a projected $84,000 weekend and location average of $20,984. The movie, from Studio Canal, Working Title Films and Cross Creek Pictures, is being released by Universal in the U.S. and stars Tom Hardy in a double turn as two of London's most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ronnie Kray.

Legend has prospered in the U.K. and Ireland with more than $28 million in ticket sales there.

Among other specialty titles, Tom McCarthy's Spotlight continues to prevail. Expanding into a total of 598 theaters in its third weekend, the film should finish the weekend at No. 8 with an estimated $3.3 million for an early cume of $5.4 million. And Brooklyn, expanding into a total of 111 locations this weekend, should finish at No. 12 with weekend earnings of $1.1 million and early total of $2.1 million.

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