‘Hunger Games’ surpasses $300 million mark at box office

by Amy Kaufman

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

9 April 2012


LOS ANGELES — “The Hunger Games” surpassed the $300 million milestone at the box office over the weekend, making the film more popular with American moviegoers than any of the “Twilight” installments.

For the third consecutive weekend, the adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel claimed the No. 1 position at the multiplex, grossing an additional $33.5 million this weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Lionsgate. The movie has now collected $302.8 million in the U.S. and Canada alone; the highest domestic gross for a “Twilight” film was November’s “Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” which sold $300.5 million worth of tickets by the end of its run.

Meanwhile, audiences weren’t as nostalgic for the 1990s as Hollywood had hoped. “American Reunion,” the fourth entry in the raunchy “American Pie” teen comedy franchise, opened with a so-so $21.5 million. A 3-D version of James Cameron’s historical romance “Titanic” was less popular, bringing in a decent $17.4 million over the weekend. The 3-D version first hit theaters Wednesday, so its five-day total is now $25.7 million.

Released in 1999, “American Pie” became a box-office hit with its buzzworthy scene featuring a teenage boy having sex with a pastry. The first film and two subsequent sequels all grossed well over $200 million worldwide.

It then appeared the franchise was dead theatrically, as Universal Pictures proceeded to release four straight-to-DVD spinoffs without franchise cast members, such as Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott. But encouraged by home video sales, the studio green-lighted “Reunion,” which reunites the original gang as it heads home for a high school get-together. Universal co-financed the picture with Relativity Media for about $50 million.

Those who saw “American Reunion” this weekend liked it, assigning it an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Roughly 61 percent of the weekend audience was older than 25, suggesting that the film appealed mostly to a crowd familiar with “Pie” instead of a new generation of moviegoers.

“As word of mouth continues, I think this will be a choice for younger audiences,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “This movie was made for a price, and we’re looking at a very respectful worldwide number. We’re happy to be No. 2 in the marketplace against a huge juggernaut.”

Nine years ago, “American Wedding” opened with $33 million. But if the fourth movie ends up lagging behind its previous entries domestically, it may make up some ground internationally. Overseas, “Reunion” opened in 28 foreign countries and collected $19.3 million. According to Universal, that’s 105 percent ahead of how much “Wedding” made in the same locations in 2003. The new movie performed especially well this weekend in Russia and Australia, selling about $5 million worth of tickets in each country.

When a 3-D reissue of “The Lion King” ended up grossing a surprisingly strong $94.2 million after its release in September, it seemed 3-D re-releases would be the wave of the future in Hollywood. After that tale resonated with audiences, Walt Disney Studios decided to release four more of its animated titles in 3-D. The first of those, an updated “Beauty and the Beast,” started off with $17.8 million in January and ultimately grossed $47.4 million. That’s somewhat more than a 3-D version of “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” made after debuting in February.

“I think 3-D re-releases are really something that need to be thought through on a film-by-film basis,” said Megan Colligan, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “ ‘The Lion King’ is one of the most beloved animated movies of all time, and ‘Titanic’ is empirically a huge amount of people’s favorite movie. I don’t know that you can replicate this with lots of films — it needs to be one where the experience could be deepened and enhanced by 3-D conversion.”

Indeed, it seemed “Titanic 3-D” had perhaps the best chance for box-office success of any 3-D re-release, considering the 1997 original is the second highest-grossing of all time and filmmaker Cameron, who also directed “Avatar,” is one of the leaders in the 3-D technology field. But the film debuted with a lower three-day tally than any of the recent 3-D conversions, including “Beast” and “Phantom Menace.” Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox shared the inexpensive $18 million cost to convert the story starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to 3-D.

The movie — which received an A, according to CinemaScore — was also released abroad in 84 foreign countries this weekend, grossing $35.5 million. Fox, which is releasing the film internationally, is hopeful that the movie will be a hit abroad, because theaters were sparse in many countries when the original debuted 15 years ago. For instance, when “Titanic” opened in Russia in 1998, it played in only 32 theaters and grossed $5.1 million. By comparison, “Titanic 3-D” was screened in 10 times as many Russian locations and made $4.9 million — 97 percent of the original’s lifetime gross in the country. Yet despite the seemingly impressive figure, Russian moviegoers responded more positively to the naughty antics of the “Reunion” guys than “Titanic 3-D,” as the comedy sold $5.1 million worth of tickets there.

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