With 'Mockingjay Part 1', Will 'The Hunger Games' Become First Franchise to Win Consecutive Box Office Years?
on November 12, 2014
A single franchise claiming the top domestic gross in back-to-back calendar years?
It's a feat never before accomplished. Not even by the annual releases of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Marvel's Cinematic Universe chapters.
Several series have claimed more than one yearly trophy: Potter's first (The Sorcerer's Stone) and eighth (Deathly Hallows Part II) installments won in 2001 and 2011. Toy Story 3 took 2010, fifteen years after the original film claimed 1995. Spider-Man 3 edged out a few other titles in 2007 following the domination of Sam Raimi's first film in 2002. And of course, 2008's The Dark Knight and 1989's Batman gave that franchise two titles through two very different iterations.
Still, they all had a gap of at least one film and multiple years between them.
In fact, only one franchise has truly come close: Star Wars.
Five of its six installments (so far) championed their box office years. (Attack of the Clones finished in a respectable third place behind Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 2002). Not only are those five wins impressive on their own merits, they make Star Wars the only series to achieve back-to-back sequel (and/or prequel) wins during their respective years.
But, they still had a lag time of at least three years between each flick.
Behind the camera, Catching Fire and Mockingjay director Francis Lawrence himself could join elite company. A company of one, actually. In the modern box office era, Steven Spielberg stands as the only director to helm the biggest movie for two straight years: Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 and E.T. in 1982.
Is this all relatively trivial? Sure. At best, being able to claim the top grossing movie of the year is beneficial for studio- and fandom-bragging rights. After all, you didn't see Disney or Marvel complaining when Catching Fire usurped Iron Man 3 in the eleventh hour for last year's title.
It's an intriguing scenario--not to mention a very likely one--for avid box office watchers. The evolution of how quickly sequels are put in theaters today has a heavy hand in the shifting landscape of yearly box office charts, but that won't diminish Mockingjay - Part 1's seemingly inevitable triumph.
How likely is it for Mockingjay to "win" 2014?
The target right now is Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, which has grossed a stellar $330 million stateside. Without taking anything away from that movie's success, Lionsgate and co. have plans to spoil the Disney/Marvel party for a second straight year. To do it, the first half of the Mockingjay finale only needs to draw about 78 percent of Catching Fire's $424.7 million domestic gross (approximately, a 22 percent drop).
The closest any comparable film has come to such a drop? 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (also the third entry of its series) slipped 21.4 percent from Chamber of Secrets' gross. The same drop would give Mockingjay - Part 1 around $334 million--and that's a worst case scenario for a franchise that's already broken new ground by becoming the first to hit $400 million in each of its first two outings.
When it comes to split-finales, the odds are in Mockingjay's favor (forgive the pun). Deathly Hallows Part I slid only 2 percent from The Half-Blood Prince's total haul, while The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 was off 6.4 percent from Eclipse. Similar drops for the penultimate Hunger Games would translate to $416 million or $398 million, respectively.
Still, never say never. Fans of the books have warned that Mockingjay could go either way as a split-story (a case that we've seen play to mixed reactions before) and result in a sizable attendance drop before next year's grand finale.
Furthermore, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the only legitimate contender left on this year's calendar, and most expectations have it pegged to finish under Guardians' $330 million (well under, depending on who you ask).
One thing's for certain, though: expect the year's biggest opening weekend as Mockingjay - Part 1 is pacing to launch somewhere between the $152.5 million and $158 million starts of its predecessors. The lack of IMAX screenings this time around will knock a few million dollars off both the opening weekend and overall totals, but Mockingjay is already well-poised to set a record or two after it bows on November 21.
The Mockingjay - Part 1 trailer: