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'The Hunger Games' Should Become First Mega Blockbuster Of 2012


With the widest release in March history, "The Hunger Games" reaches theaters this weekend with a huge prospective audience that should help turn it into a major hit. As "The Hunger Games" scoops up a huge sector of mainstream audiences this weekend, "21 Jump Street" is still in good position to appeal to adults and "The Lorax" will likely continue its success with families this weekend. It won't get much easier for "John Carter," however, as its already depleting target demographic could jump ship for "The Hunger Games."

Launching at an eye-popping 4,137 total theaters, Lionsgate isn't being shy about pushing "The Hunger Games" into the vision of moviegoers everywhere. "The Hunger Games" also has a tremendous built-in audience due to the popularity of the book series it's based on, which should combine with positive critical buzz so far to make for a very big opening. With midnight screenings likely to be sold out, the only question right now is just how big its opening totals will be.

While March was formerly a difficult month to launch a potential blockbuster, the last six years have seen a slew of major hits that have put up mid-summer opening numbers. "Alice in Wonderland" still holds the record at $116 million domestically during its opening weekend in 2010, though it's a record that Lionsgate would love to smash this weekend with "The Hunger Games."

The only real downside for "The Hunger Games" is its PG-13 rating. Though it has a big enough fan base to potentially make this mostly a non-factor, "The Hunger Games" doesn't have the advantage of a family-friendly PG rating, which "Alice in Wonderland" had when it hit theaters in 2010. Still, "The Hunger Games" is launching at roughly 400 theaters more than "Alice," potentially giving it enough of a boost to surpass the March record.

As many end up in long lines to get in to see "The Hunger Games," much of the adult demographic will turn to "21 Jump Street," which comes off of a chart-topping weekend with plenty of positive buzz. "21 Jump Street" hauled in a very strong $36 million and has done well during the week, putting it in position for a big 10-day domestic total in the neighborhood of $70 million. With a fairly modest production budget of just $42 million, "21 Jump Street" already looks like a big hit for Sony/Columbia, one that will likely be enough launch a sequel.

Meanwhile, "The Lorax" is still in a good position to find families with children too young for "The Hunger Games," which should help the Universal distribution put together a fourth consecutive big weekend. "The Lorax" has dropped less than 45% each weekend since its year-best opening, showing that it still has plenty of appeal to its target audience. Though "The Lorax" will have to give up a large portion of its audience to "Mirror, Mirror" next weekend, it is still on pace to push past $200 million domestically sometime in April.

A movie that many at one time thought could cruise past the $200 million domestic mark is "John Carter," but the franchise hopeful has fallen completely flat at the box office and looks like one of the biggest duds of the year. "John Carter" hasn't even reached $60 million domestically as it heads into its third weekend in theaters, a horrible total for a $250 million production. After dropping 55% from its disappointing opening to last weekend, "John Carter" should take another hit with the opening of "The Hunger Games" and a weekend total of only $6 or $7 million seems likely.

Next weekend, PG "Mirror, Mirror" will take over most of the family demographic, while PG-13 action sequel "Wrath of the Titans" hopes to build on the success of "Clash of the Titans" from 2010. Moving into April, "American Reunion" promises to find a wide adult audience and James Cameron's "Titanic 3D" launches in time to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the "unsinkable" ship's tragic sinking.

RTT Box Office Predictions for 3/23/12 - 3/25/12 (In Millions):

1. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate): $120

2. 21 Jump Street (Sony/Columbia): $18

3. The Lorax (Universal): $13

4. John Carter (Buena Vista): $6.5

5. Project X (Warner Brothers): $2.2

6. A Thousand Words (Paramount): $2

7. Act of Valor (Relativity): $1.8

8. Safe House (Universal): $1.7

9. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Brothers): $1.3

10. Casa De Mi Padre (Lionsgate): $1

by RTTNews Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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