Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Hunger Games' Three-peats, Passes $300 Million Over Easter

Despite the entrance of two competitive titles to the marketplace over Easter Weekend, box office phenomenon The Hunger Games had little difficulty taking the top spot for the third-straight frame. American Reunion opened in second place, though its debut doesn't compare favorably to earlier series entries, while Titanic 3D wound up on the low-end among 3D re-releases. The Top 12 earned an estimated $117 million this weekend, which is up 14 percent from the same period last year but off a bit from Easter 2011 (which was later in the month).

The Hunger Games dropped 43 percent to an estimated $33.5 million. That's the seventh-highest second weekend of all-time, and it's the best since Alice in Wonderland in March 2010. Based on Lionsgate's projections, the movie will pass $300 million on Easter Sunday, which is only its 17th day in theaters. That's the sixth-fastest pace ever, and it ranks second behind Avatar among non-sequels. Its estimated $302.8 million total is more than the final tally of all of the Twilight movies and all but two of the Harry Potter flicks. Based on its current trajectory, The Hunger Games should end up with at least $350 million.

American Reunion took second place with an estimated $21.5 million from 3,192 locations. That's much lower than the opening weekend for American Pie 2 ($45.1 million) and American Wedding ($33.4 million), and it's even noticeably off from the original American Pie in estimated attendance. Still, it didn't drop quite as far from its predecessor as Scream 4, which was last April's attempt at resuscitating a long-dormant franchise for a fourth outing.

There are plenty of possible reasons for American Reunion's underwhelming debut. Women may have been distracted a bit by The Hunger Games and Titanic 3D, which earned over $50 million combined. Also, Easter weekend can be a tough time to open an R-rated movie—American Reunion's $21.5 million is actually the best R-rated Easter debut since Panic Room a decade ago. In comparison, the first three American Pie movies were all released in the Summer, which is prime real estate for raunchy R-rated fare.

While timing surely played a role, the bigger problem was probably with the brand itself. While the first three American Pie movies played a part in establishing the model for risqué sex comedies in the new century, they haven't really held up that well (when the average person is asked what they think of American Pie, the standard response seems to be: "I liked the first one, but the sequels? Not so much.") Also, after seeing ads for cheesy direct-to-video spin-offs for the better part of the last decade, people were probably less likely to pay much attention to the ads for American Reunion. Those spin-offs were meant to prolong the brand, but in doing so they also wound up diluting it a bit.

Universal is reporting that 61 percent of the audience was 25 years of age or older, and it also skewed slightly male (51 percent). They awarded the movie a solid "B+" CinemaScore, which doesn't really give a strong indication regarding word-of-mouth.

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