Early box office numbers for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” suggest the film could fall $10 to $15 million short of its predecessor, which grossed $152.5 million over its opening weekend in North America — as well as come in well below pre-weekend tracking estimates, which pegged the sequel to open at $160 to $172 million.
It’s important to note that projections from Friday matinees are historically unreliable indicators of weekend performance, particularly for a young adult franchise, which could still receive a boost from evening showings.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Friday matinee numbers are actually comparable to “Iron Man 3,” which hit the after-burners in evening showings and went on to gross $174 million its opening weekend. Prognosticators have had a lot of fun debating whether “Catching Fire” would steal the crown for the year’s biggest opening; though that seems much less likely now, it’s still a possibility.
Though it appears “Catching Fire” will fall short of those expectations in the United States, its overseas numbers ensure the film will outshine the first movie by a healthy margin.
Monstrous as the first “Hunger Games” as at the box office, 59 percent of its grosses came from the domestic box office. That is unusual for a blockbuster in recent years. “Catching Fire” has already put up big numbers in Brazil, China and several other territories, and it may double the $283 million the first film made overseas.
In other words, no matter what these very preliminary numbers tell us, the odds are still in Lionsgate’s favor.