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'The Hunger Games' Smashes March Record, Opens With $155 Million


Starting with enormous midnight screenings, "The Hunger Games" proved to be up to the hype as far as box office potential is concerned, as the Lionsgate distribution racked up more than $37,000 per venue and $155 million domestically this weekend. Only "The Dark Knight" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" have ever earned more in a weekend, setting up "The Hunger Games" for one of the most lucrative box office runs of 2012.

Launching at 4,137 total venues across the country this weekend, Lionsgate clearly had big hopes for "The Hunger Games." Backed by a very strong critical consensus and a voluminous fan base, "The Hunger Games" started selling out midnight shows well before it actually hit theaters and the fanfare easily carried throughout the weekend. By the time screenings wrapped on Sunday, "The Hunger Games" had shattered the March record of $116 million that "Alice in Wonderland" earned a couple years ago.

But even though the numbers were expected to be big, the final weekend figures are still somewhat staggering for a non-sequel. "The Hunger Games" is now the only non-sequel in the top ten for all-time opening weekends, clearly setting it up to become a gargantuan franchise on its own. With two more books by Suzanne Collins to be adapted, there is still plenty of story left and it's very likely that we'll see the last book split into two separate releases, which has become the trend in recent years. While the "Twilight" movies routinely see a serious decline in the weekends following their release, "The Hunger Games" should do slightly better due to very positive critical and audience buzz.

For Lionsgate, "The Hunger Games" is also an unprecedented success, as the previous all-time best opening weekend for the distributor was the $41 million of "Madea Goes to Jail." We'll see if "The Hunger Games" can truly catch on overseas as well, but it is already cemented as one of the top earners of the year and you shouldn't expect to see the brand go away anytime in the near future.

With "The Hunger Games" dominating with its intended audience, the adult demographic was left to propel "21 Jump Street" to another big weekend. With $21 million in second weekend revenue, "21 Jump Street" now boasts a 10-day total of $71 million domestically, a very strong total for a $42 million production. "21 Jump Street" should easily eclipse the $100 million domestic mark sometime in the next few weeks, making it the first R-rated comedy of 2012 to do so. By the time that "American Reunion" takes over a significant chunk of the adult demographic in a couple weeks, "21 Jump Street" will have done enough damage at the box office to warrant a sequel.

Even as "21 Jump Street" dipped just 41% from its opening totals, Disney's "John Carter" hasn't been nearly so lucky. "John Carter" dropped more than 63% from last week and now has just $62 million domestically after 17 days, a devastatingly low number for a $250 million production. With "Wrath of the Titans" set to hit theaters this Friday, "John Carter" will likely take an even bigger hit next weekend.

While "The Hunger Games" and "21 Jump Street" continue to have tremendous mainstream appeal, limited release "October Baby" was the surprise release to squeeze into the top ten, as the Samuel Goldwyn distribution earned $1.72 million at 390 venues this weekend. Though "October Baby" won't likely see a surge in revenue in the weeks to come, reaching the top ten is an achievement in itself for an obscure limited release with minimal buzz heading into its opening weekend.

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.

Early Studio Box Office Estimates for 3/23/12 - 3/25/12 (In Millions), [RTT Prediction]:

1. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate): $155 [$120]

2. 21 Jump Street (Sony/Columbia): $21.30 [$18]

3. The Lorax (Universal): $13.10 [$13]

4. John Carter (Disney): $5.01 [$6.5]

5. Act of Valor (Relativity): $2.06 [$1.8]

6. Project X (Warner Brothers): $1.95 [$2.2]

7. A Thousand Words (Paramount): $1.93 [$2]

8. October Baby (Samuel Goldwyn): $1.72 [N/A]

9. Safe House (Universal): $1.40 [$1.7]

10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Brothers): $1.37 [$1.3]

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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