(Murray Close/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Seth Rogen’s R-rated comedy ‘The Night Before’ performs on the lower end of expectations, while ‘Secret in Their Eyes’ marks the worst start of Julia Roberts’ career for a title opening in more than 2,000 locations; ‘Carol’ shines at specialty box office.
Katniss Everdeen’s last stand at the box office saw The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 opening to a franchise-low $101 million in North America for a worldwide bow of $247 million.
While that’s a hefty start for Lionsgate, Mockingjay 2 came in behind expectations even on a global basis. The $160 million tentpole, starring Jennifer Lawrence, had hoped to beat the $274.9 million worldwide start of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 on the same weekend a year ago, considering it had the advantage of rolling out day-and-date in 87 markets, including China, where it underperformed over the weekend with $16.4 million (that compares to $21.9 million forMockingjay 1).
Mockingjay 2 easily placed No. 1 both domestically and internationally, opening to $146 million overseas. The other big player offshore was James Bond installment Spectre with a weekend take of $65.7 million, pushing its global total to $677.8 million. In its second weekend in China,Spectre took in $12.8 million for a total $77.8 million.
In North America, Mockingjay 2‘s debut was down 17 percent from the $121.9 million opening ofMockingjay — Part 1, and 36 percent from the massive $158 million launch of sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire two years ago. Globally, the tentpole was off 10 percent from the last title.
“It’s a pretty unbelievable achievement any time you have a movie that results in a $100 million-plus opening, which has only happened 34 times in our business,” said Lionsgate domestic distribution executive David Spitz, adding that with the upcoming holidays, “we have a tremendous runway ahead of us.”
Overseas, the movie boasts the biggest day-and-date release of the year to date and the widest in Lionsgate’s history. It opened No. 1 in 81 markets, led by the U.K. with $17.1 million, followed by China, Germany ($14.4 million), Mexico ($8.7 million) and France ($7.1 million), where it wasn’t that far behind the $10 million debut of Mockingjay 1 despite the devastating terrorist attacks in Paris. Australia and Brazil followed with $6.8 million each, while Russia turned in $6.7 million.
Box-office observers debate whether it was wise to break Suzanne Collins’ final book into two movies, both of which received lukewarm reviews compared to the first two installments (audiences liked Mockingjay 2 better than critics, giving it an A- CinemaScore). Rentrak’s Paul Dergarabedian believes it was wise.
“If we take the ultimate measure of Mockingjay‘s success — the global combined box office of the two installments — then this final film will be seen as the cherry on the top of a very lucrative box-office cake with a combined gross that is already over $1 billion globally (Part 1, with $755.3 million, plus Part 2 with $247 million). This is once again a case of overblown expectations creating an emotional response and a perception of failure that is simply not backed up by the facts,” Dergarabedian said.
All told, the four Hunger Games movies have collected $2.55 billion worldwide to date.
Early exit polls showed that 63 percent of the movie’s North American audience for Mockingjay 2was female, while 52 percent was under the age of 25, according to Rentrak. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 make up the biggest chunk of ticket buyers at 37 percent. By the end of the weekend, Lionsgate said the the gender split had evened out to 50-50.
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 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.
The weekend’s two other new films also came in behind industry expectations, resulting in overall box office revenue tumbling 11 percent from a year ago, and 24 percent from two years ago. The hope now for all three new movies is that they benefit from the lucrative Thanksgiving holiday, which gets underway in earnest at the box office on Wednesday.
Jonathan Levine’s holiday comedy The Night Before, starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie, opened to $10 million from 2,690 theaters for a fourth-place finish behindMockingjay 2, Spectre ($14.5 million) and The Peanuts Movie ($12.8 million). As a way of comparison, Rogen’s This Is the End debuted to $20.7 million.
From Sony, Night Before follows three friends who reunite for their traditional Christmas Eve rager in New York City. The $26 million, R-rated comedy hopes to remain a strong draw for younger moviegoers, buoyed by an A- CinemaScore. “With the movie’s holiday theme, we are in great shape,” said Sony distribution president Rory Bruer.
Night Before skewed male (55 percent), with 52 percent of the audience under the age of 25 .
Secret in Their Eyes, starring Julia Roberts opposite Chiwetel Efjiofor and Nicole Kidman, opened to an estimated $6.6 million from 2,392 locations, the worst start of Roberts’ career for a movie opening in 2,000 or more theaters. Billy Ray’s film is the second release from STX Entertainment after sleeper hit The Gift, and is a remake of the 2010 Argentinean movie that won the Oscar for best foreign-language film.
The film follows a DA 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.
Older females are the key demo, with 76 percent of ticket buyers over the age of 25, including 22 percent over the age of 55. STX had projected a $7 million-$9 million opening.
“We came in a little lower than we would have liked, but we’re all in agreement that moving the film out of October to November and Thanksgiving was the smart choice. It’s basically a 10-day play period. People are going to talk about the surprise ending, which will result in a very strong multiple,” STX distribution chief Kevin Grayson said.
Secret in Their Eyes is the latest fall title boasting big stars to struggle. Angelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt’s By the Sea, expanding into a total of 1,468 theaters in its second weekend, continued to fare miserably, grossing $185,000 for a location average of $1,470 and cume of $313,000 for Universal.
One adult film proving an exception is Todd Haynes’ awards contender Carol, starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler. The Weinstein Co. opened Carol, a lesbian drama set in the 1950s, in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles this weekend for a weekend gross of $248,149 and sizable location average of $62,032, the best of the year to date after Universal’s Steve Jobs, which had the backing of a major studio, and Lionsgate’s Sicario.
“The movie’s showing is driven by reviews and great word-of-mouth from the festival circuit,” TWC distribution chief Erik Lomis said, adding that 62 percent Carol‘s audience was female, while nearly 60 percent of all ticket buyers were over the age of 50.
Director Brian Helgeland’s Legend, starring Tom Hardy, also opened in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York, grossing $83,000 for a location average of $20,271. The movie, from Studio Canal, Working Title Films and Cross Creek Pictures, is being released by Universal in the U.S. and stars 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 made a major push in its third weekend, expanding into a total of 599 theaters and moving into the top 10 chart with an estimated $3.6 million for a domestic total of roughly $5.8 million. The movie, posting a location average north of $6,206, placed No. 8.
Brooklyn, expanding into a total of 111 locations in its third outing, posted a hearty location of $10,480 after grossing $1.1 million and moving up to No. 12. The Fox Searchlight title, earning strong reviews and a stellar A CinemaScore, has grossed $2.6 million to date.
Spotlight, another limited release, also had a strong weekend as it expanded to just shy of 600 locations, bringing in an estimated $3.6 million. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Rachel McAdams, the drama finally moved into the top 10, and after three weekends, its domestic total is now at $5.9 million.
Overall, box office receipts were down about 11 percent from last year, when the first Mockingjay opened. Here are this weekend’s top five at the box office:
1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 — $101 million
2. Spectre — $14.6 million
3. The Peanuts Movie — $12.8 million
4. The Night Before — $10.1 million
5. Secret In Their Eyes — $6.6 million