“The Hunger Games” made more in the U.S. than abroad, but thanks to Jennifer Lawrence & co., the sequel should far exceed it overseas
Unlike all but a few modern blockbusters, last year's “The Hunger Games” made the bulk of its box-office money domestically rather than overseas. With “Catching Fire,” Katniss Everdeen and her cohorts are about to turn that around – in a major way.
The Lionsgate sequel will far exceed the $283 million foreign box office haul of the original, and analysts have forecast an international total of $500 million and $900 million worldwide. If it over-performs and comes closer to doubling the first film's foreign haul, ”Catching Fire” could even take a run at $1 billion worldwide, the gold standard for today's elite tentpoles.
“Catching Fire” will roll out Wednesday in a handful of Scandinavian countries, 25 more territories on Thursday and by Friday will be in theaters in more than 50 overseas markets as well as the U.S.
“The Hunger Games” brought in $691 million worldwide last year, with 40 percent of that coming from overseas. Most of Hollywood's biggest hits today – sequels for the most part — bring in the bulk of their grosses from abroad. The year's highest-grossing movie, “Iron Man 3,” drew two-thirds of its $1.2 billion haul from international.
The main reasons that the “Catching Fire” foreign returns are expected to spike are heightened awareness driven by the first film, a stratospheric surge in Jennifer Lawrence's star power, increased interest in the Suzanne Collins’ novel it's based on and a promotional campaign designed for global growth.
The expanding foreign market also will help, as will the glowing reviews it has been drawing.
“It's not just Jennifer Lawrence who's become more well-known, it's the whole young cast, who have become huge in their own right,” Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap.
“So much of the marketing — the magazines, the cosmetics, the fashions — are things that translate and work on a global basis. It all snowballs into something bigger, especially with a young adult franchise like this, and right now it's in the forefront of pop culture in a lot of these countries.”
Lionsgate has positioned “Catching Fire” for event-scale debuts in several key foreign markets. Lawrence, co-stars Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth and director Francis Lawrence have barnstormed their way through buzz-building red-carpet premieres in Rome, London, Berlin and Paris over the past few weeks, ahead of Monday's U.S. premiere in Los Angeles.
To take advantage of a local holiday, “Catching Fire” opened last weekend in Brazil and took in $6.3 million, more than double the opening of “Hunger Games.”
Putting a number on the likely foreign haul is tricky. But it's worth looking back on the first two “Twilight” movies – also young adult franchise hits from Summit — to gauge its potential.
The original “Twilight” brought in $192 million domestically and $199 million overseas in 2008. The first sequel – “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” – jumped to $296 million in the U.S. and more than doubled its overseas take with $413 million the following year.
“The Hunger Games” was a much bigger hit than “Twilight,” with global grosses roughly 43 percent greater than those run up by Bella and Edward. But “Catching Fire” clearly still has plenty of room to grow overseas.
The expansion of the global market, particularly in China and Russia (it opens in both markets Thursday), won't hurt. “The Hunger Games” took in $27 million in China, and “Catching Fire”should top that easily, though Beijing officials’ decision to slot the opening of “Gravity” one day earlier won't help.
Bock doesn't think that the adventure saga's lack of 3D — it was shot in 2D and Imax — will significantly cut into overseas returns.
“It will be on just about every Imax screen there is, and that'll help a lot,” he said.
“The fact is, this movie and this franchise have very much taken on the blockbuster aura, and that's going to translate very well in these foreign markets.”
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