Box Office: 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay' Eyes Franchise-Low $102M Debut

Murray Close/LIONSGATE

The tentpole is a much bigger player overseas for a projected $251 global bow; elsewhere in North America, Seth Rogen's comedy 'The Night Before' is hoping for $10 million, while 'The Secret in Their Eyes' is on course for $8 million despite an all-star cast that includes Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is doing sizeable business at the North American box office, although it will close out the franchise with the lowest debut of any title in Lionsgate's YA film series, starring Jennifer Lawrence as the invincible Katniss Everdeen.

The $150 million tentpole grossed roughly $46 million Friday from 4,175 theaters for a projected $102 million weekend. While that's a whopping number, it won't match the $121.9 million domestic opening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 on the same weekend a year ago, and is more than 34  behind the massive $158 million debut of sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire two years ago.

Overseas, Mockingjay – Part 2 is getting the widest day-and-date release of any film this year to date as it rolls out in 87 markets, including China. Projections show the film opening to nearly $150 million internationally, on par with Mockingjay 1, even though the latter didn't open right away in China. That puts the latest film's worldwide bow at a projected $251 million, compared to $273 million for Mockingjay 1.

Through Friday, the tentpole has grossed $61 overseas million since opening midweek in some markets, and is doing especially well in Germany, the U.K. and Mexico.

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, based on the second half of Suzanne Collins' third book, 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.

Some box-office observers are questioning whether it was wise to break the final book into two movies, both of which have received lukewarm reviews compared to the first two installments (audiences liked Mockingjay 2 better than critics, giving it an A- CinemaScore). Early exit polls show that 63 percent of the audience is female, while 52 percent are 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.

Opening nationwide opposite Mockingjay 2 are Jonathan Levine's holiday comedy The Night Before, starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie, and The Secret in Their Eyes, starring Julia Roberts, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman.

Sony's Night Before, following three friends who reunite for their traditional Christmas Eve rager, is on course to earn roughly $10 million from 2,960 theaters after grossing $3.6 million Friday. The $26 million, R-rated comedy is looking to come in No. 4 after Mockingjay 2 and holdovers Spectre ($14 million-plus) and The Peanuts Movie ($12 million-plus).

Night Before, directed by Jonathan Levine, is coming in well behind the $20.7 million domestic debut of Rogen's sleeper hit This Is the End, likewise an offbeat offering. Night Before is skewing male (55 percent), with 52 percent of the audience under the age of 25 (only 7 percent are over the age of 45), according to Rentrak. That means Mockingjay 2 could be competing with Night Before for younger eyeballs.

Secret in Their Eyes, STX Entertainment's second release after sleeper hit The Gift, is eyeing a $7.1 million opening from 2,392 locations despite its all-star cast. Director Billy Ray's revenge thriller — a remake of the 2010 Argentinian movie that won the Oscar for best-foreign language film — will mark the worst opening of Roberts' career for a film opening in more than 2,000 theaters, not accounting for inflation. (That excludes animated film The Ant Bully.)

The film follows a D.A. 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.

Secret in Their Eyes hopes to serve as a date-night offering for older adults throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, although poor reviews and a B- CinemaScore could make the going tough. 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.

The movie 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 126 theaters in its second weekend, is faring miserably for a projected $174,000 weekend gross and location average of $1,380.

One film hoping to prove an exception is Todd Haynes' awards contender Carol, starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler. The Weinstein Co. is opening Carol, a lesbian drama set in the 1950s, in four theaters in New York and Los Angles this weekend, and so far, it's doing stellar business for a projected $250,190 weekend and screen average of $62,548, one of the best of the year to date.

Director Brian Helgeland's Legend, starring Tom Hardy, also opens in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York for a projected $84,000 weekend and location average of $20,984. The movie, from Studio Canal, Working Title Films and Cross Creek Pictures, is being released by Universal in the U.S. and stars Tom 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 continues to prevail. Expanding into a total of 598 theaters in its third weekend, the film should finish the weekend at No. 8 with an estimated $3.3 million for an early cume of $5.4 million. And Brooklyn, expanding into a total of 111 locations this weekend, should finish at No. 12 with weekend earnings of $1.1 million and early total of $2.1 million.

Nov. 20, 12:20 p.m. Updated with weekend estimates.

Nov 21, 7:55 a.m. Updated with Friday numbers.

 

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