Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games: the most impressive box office opening of all time

So $155m with estimate, and could potentially go even higher with actual if all the sold-out shows pushed more business to Sunday. This is simply insane, or any other word one could think of to describe such mind-blowing achievement.

1. Its opening Friday of $68m is the 5th biggest single day gross of all time, and the top 4 were all achieved by sequels. In fact, the sequels occupied the top 20 spots, as the previous single day record for a non-sequel was Alice in Wonderland's $44.2m.

2. If we subtract midnight from each respective film's opening day, its $48.3m Friday would rank 3rd all time, behind only the opening Friday of Spider-Man 3 (~$50m) and The Dark Knight ($48.6m, one that it could surpass when the daily actuals come in on Monday).

3. Its $51m Saturday ranks 2nd all time, a tiny $0.3m behind Spider-Man's first Saturday (so again, it may just claim the top spot on Monday).

4. It achieved an increase from Friday minus midnight to Saturday and in the process broke Alice in Wonderland's March opening weekend record with one day to spare.

5. If the opening weekend estimate holds, which I give a high probability of happening as I expect the Sunday drop to come in below 30%, it would mean the film has sold more tickets than even the first Spider-Man did on its opening frame (inflation-adjusted to $154.8m).

We could break down its numbers left and right, but all point to one thing: this is as impressive a start one franchise has ever seen since Spider-Man. However, ask ourselves the following question: was anyone comparing The Hunger Games to Spider-Man before Friday? No; and if you were, you would be laughed at and probably asked to have your brain checked out. In fact, we have been playing catch-up in term of its box office potential for the past three months, and in the end it still somehow beat the expectations even after the latest round of surge in hype this week. Back in early January, when its stock at HSX was hovering around $190, I made a comment there saying it appeared to be way overpriced as I was thinking a $50m start at the time (would mean an adjust-price of $135); Ha, silly me. Then I began to gradually move my target up, and by February when the first report of its advance sales came in, I realized $100m+ is possible; then $120-130m a couple of weeks ago, and finally gave in to the hype and settled at $148m for my prediction on Thursday. It still felt short. Many who have followed the film may have similar stories. The way the film defied and raised expectations, on top of the raw awesomeness of its numbers so far, is what push its opening weekend to be the most impressive one ever for me.

And we are not done yet. With very good word-of-mouth, that Fri-to-Sat increase, and not much competition in April, The Hunger Games could stay at the top of the chart for a while. I do believe $400m total is very likely to happen now. The bar for the other mega-blockbusters of the year, such as The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, and The Hobbit, has been officially raised. This is going to be an exciting year at the box office.

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