Analyzing 2014’s Box Office through ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1’

By Will Ashton

With its $123 million opening this weekend, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 became the fifteenth best opening weekend ever, just behind—ironically enough—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, as reported by Rope of Silicon.

Even with this accomplishment, though, this opening is considered something of a disappointment. With projections on the sequel setting the opening weekend to gear somewhere towards $130-150 million, after becoming the record-holder for most tickets bought during an opening pre-date sale on Fandango, as reported by Entertainment Weekly, Mockingjay-Part 1 actually earned 22% less than its last film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and 19.5% less than the original film in 2012.

People estimate the drop-off between these two films was because, unlike the other two films, this sequel wasn’t able to properly utilize the IMAX format like the former films did, with IMAX theaters across the country still playing Interstellar. But considering how much the movie made, in addition to the $152 million it dragged in overseas, Mockingjay-Part 1 is far from a financial disappointment. It does, however, continue an ongoing trend found in this year’s films, and many other box office hits from the past couple years. With each passing year, more and more financially successful films are based on adapted properties, while original films find themselves moving farther down the totem pole of Hollywood executives’ interest.

As seen on Box Office Mojo, the most financially successful original film of 2014 so far, Neighbors, ranks at number 15 on the list of the year’s biggest hits, with a $150.1 million domestic gross. Ranking above it are two Marvel movies, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Solider, piled as the two most financially successful movies of the year with $331.0 million and $259.7 million, respectively. Also found above this are fellow superhero movies, like X-Men: Days of Future Past in sixth place with $233.9 million and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in eight place with $202.8 million, and sequels like Transformers: Age of Extinction in fourth place with $245.4 million, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in seventh place with $208.5 million, 22 Jump Street in tenth place with $191.7 million and How to Train Your Dragon 2 in twelfth place with $176.9 million.

To get a perspective of how many of 2014’s box office successes are based on adapted properties, and how many of this year’s top 30 movies are adapted opposed to original, here are some graphics showcasing this year’s biggest box office contenders:

https://public.tableausoftware.com/profile/willashton#!/vizhome/2014BoxOfficeStatisticsSoFar/Dashboard1

This figures are no different in Athens, OH. The Athena Grand, one of three theaters in the area, including the Athena Cinema—the town’s arthouse theater—and the Fun Barn, located in Nelsonville, OH about thirty minutes away, has been finding a great deal of success with this new Hunger Games film. While not always a guaranteed success, movies based on pre-established properties are typically successful for the Grand.

“Our most successful film so far that came out this year has definitely been Guardians of the Galaxy in 2D,” said Rick Frame, manager of the Athena Grand. “Along those same lines, superhero movies and movies based on books are definitely our most popular types of movies. Anything that Marvel makes is almost guaranteed to bring in people as well as anything like The Hunger Games trilogy. Sequels don’t normally do as good unless it is for a book series.”

Frame also noted that, leading up to the new Hunger Games movie’s release, tickets are selling plentifully, making it one of their most successful of the year much like the past two Hunger Games films were in the years they were released. A big contributor to this can be found in the high number of young adults, teenagers and 20-year-olds engaged in these properties in the college town area.

“I would say movies that cater and are relatable to demographics in the area sell the most tickets, if that makes sense,” said Nathan Gordon, an employee at the Athena Grand for two years and senior studying journalism at Ohio University. “Right behind that would be kids movies and any of these movies that are based off all these young adult novels.”

As Gordon notes, however, success can be hard to track on an individual basis. Often, there are a lot of factors that relate to how well the movie does.

“There are still several factors that play into them being more successful,” Gordon said. “Like timing of the sequels’ release, the audience the movie is attracting or made for, among other things. But for the sequels that are more successful than the originals, I think most of it has to do with tickets prices always going up. I also believe it deals with people seeing the original on DVD or something because they weren’t too sure about watching it at the movies and then really enjoying it. So then they decide to go ahead and see it right when it comes out.”

While ticket prices are always in a state of flux in movie theaters across the country, the Athens community have the advantage of their theater tickets being more economically reasonable. For all three theaters, tickets range from $5 for matinees and $6.50 for night showings, which, compared to tickets being around $9-15 dollars in most theaters in the U.S., is especially more manageable.

In relation to the new Hunger Games, however, there are a number of factors, like Gordon mentioned, relating to the film’s partial success. For instance, the release being in contention with Interstellar, hurting its IMAX changes, while also getting the film’s weakest ratings—see my review here—seemed to make the film less of a success than expected. Still, as a respected property with lots of fans, it is still getting traction from its established fanbase.

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