Jennifer Lawrence and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” missed the mark in its first weekend, posting the weakest sales in the history of the blockbuster young adult movie franchise.
The movie took in $101 million, knocking the James Bond thriller “Spectre” out of the No. 1 spot, but its opening was $20 million under analysts’ projections as well as the debut figures for last year’s “Mockingjay – Part 1.”
The underwhelming opening is a setback for Lionsgate Entertainment, for whom the franchise has been a key performer with $2.5 billion in global grosses. On Friday, as early box office numbers were coming in, the company’s stock price fell 3.3 percent, to $35.02.
Why did Jennifer Lawrence‘s Katniss Everdeen’s final arrows fail to reach the box office target? Several factors came into play, including:
1. Katniss’ fans had outgrown her
The final entry in Susan Collins’ best-selling young adult sci-fi novel series was published in 2010, so a good portion of the core fan base may simply have grown up and moved on.
While the original “Hunger Games” movie drew an audience that was 80 percent female, the finale was just 54 percent female. The social media numbers, driven by tech-savvy young women for the previous movies, were down appreciably this month.
The original film was a social phenomenon, even sparking a resurgence in archery classes among young girls. Maintaining that level of enthusiasm wasn’t possible and became more difficult as the series progressed.
2. Word of mouth was lukewarm
The audience wasn’t the only thing getting old, at least from the standpoint of critics who lauded the execution of “Mockingjay – Part 2” but, like some consumers, were put off by its tone.
While the unflinchingly grim ending was in line with the book’s, many said the movie just wasn’t as much fun. The film’s Rotten Tomatoes score of 70 percent positive was the lowest of the franchise. Even the true believers backed off a bit and gave it an “A-” CinemaScore, in line with “Mockingjay – Part 1” but down from the “A” given to the series’ first two installments.
3. War is hell, and tough to sell
Though the first film dealt with kids killing kids, Lawrence’s heroine ultimately triumphed over the tyrannical rulers of the Capitol. The final book in the series, and thus the last two movies, were considerably darker — no spoilers here.
And while splitting Collins’ last book into two movie clearly made financial sense — the first segment of the finale took in $755 million globally last year — it didn’t make selling the finale easier. And some of the faithful may have resented the double dip.
4. Fans are saving their bucks for “Star Wars”
It’s possible that all those advance tickets sold for “Star Wars: A Force Awakens” have lightened young moviegoers’ wallets.
Certainly, there are indications that recent hits like the James Bond thriller “Spectre” as well as “Mockingjay – Part 2” have opened short of expectations, a situation that Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian called “vexing.”
The overall domestic box office market remains on target to break the record set in 2013 — though it’s just 0.18 percent ahead of that year’s historic mark and the last three weekends have been down. Still, conventional wisdom says that the juggernaut “The Force Awakens” will lift overall moviegoing when it opens on Dec. 18 and secure the record.
5. Paris fallout
It’s possible that some fans may have been spooked by the recent terror attacks in Paris, which definitely depressed box office in France and other European countries this weekend.
But Lionsgate’s Co-President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution David Spitz said Sunday that a bigger factor for domestic box office was the unseasonably early snow storms in the Midwest, historically a solid region for the franchise.
Nonetheless, the opening was the fifth-biggest of the year. And as Spitz pointed out, “Any of our rivals would be glad to have a $100 million opening this weekend.”