Box Office: ‘Creed,’ ‘The Good Dinosaur’ to Duke It Out Over Thanksgiving

24 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Box Office Top 20: Final ‘Hunger Games’ movie opens on top.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” the final film in the highly successful franchise, easily topped the box office in its first weekend in theaters, grossing $102.7 million. Many will question if Lions Gate was foolish to split the final book into two films, but given the moderate cost associated with the productions, profitability came quickly.One Wall Street observer suggests security concerns affected the end of the Katniss Everdeen saga, which opened to a franchise-low $101 million domestically, as deal chatter returns. That’s slightly above the studio-reported estimates from Sunday but lags behind the figures set by the previous three films, which peaked with the $158.1 million debut of “Catching Fire” in 2013.

Its opening-weekend performance was both impressive and disappointing, as the film handily beat its competitors while falling short of its predecessors’ success (Part 1 opened at nearly $122 million in 2014). Holdovers “Spectre,” the James Bond film, and “The Peanuts Movie” took the second- and third-place spots with $15 million and $13.2 million, respectively.

Lionsgate analysts weighed in Monday, with Evercore analyst David Joyce citing short-term security concerns in the wake of the Paris attacks as grounds for the initial box office shortfall. “We would not yet extrapolate this past weekend’s light moviegoing attendance out to our full theatrical release estimates. The Seth Rogen holiday comedy “The Night Before” debuted with $9.9 million, while the Julia Roberts thriller “The Secret in Their Eyes” opened with $6.7 million. Following this final installment, The Hunger Games will enter a second life as entertainment experiences in a planned series of theme parks and licensed attractions around the world, the first of which is slated to open in Dubai in 2016. We think a better retention ratio for the second weekend is possible — the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. — as there seems to be less theatrical competition even for the next month, up until Disney’s Star Wars release,” Joyce wrote in a note Monday. The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Rentrak: Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

In time, it’s possible — albeit not overwhelmingly likely — that there may be more movies as well: Lionsgate, the studio behind the massively successful films, has said that it is investigating prequel or sequel opportunities. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Ben Mogil reduced his own estimates on Lionsgate’s three-year guidance, if only to the lower end, after opening-weekend box-office results fell short. “We believe that M&A expectations, with Starz able to enter into a tax inversion starting early next year, as somewhat offsetting the valuation pressure,” Mogil said. He was referring to persistent speculation that Lionsgate and Starz might merge after John Malone and two of his major assets, Liberty Global and Discovery Communications, bought into the studio.

Initial efforts to adapt the books into big-budget movies were met with skepticism: The story’s unrelentingly bleak outlook and its physically and emotionally brutal depictions of violence committed both against and by children made the story a tough sell. With a commitment from theaters to keep Mockingjay: Part 2 in theaters into early January 2016, those earnings will continue to balloon up and eventually so will the earnings. That’s also not even counting the film’s international earnings which so far have been right on estimates and coming closer to Part 1’s earnings than ones Stateside.

Matthew Harrigan, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities, said Monday that the $247 million opening for the fourth Hunger Games installment was “not exactly dystopian,” but argued new movies in the Lionsgate pipeline were key to feeding the bottom line going forward. It’s the perfect blockbuster for the millennial generation as it comes of age — an all-purpose metaphor for life as a young person in the post-recession era. The first book in Collins’s trilogy hit stores on September 14, 2008, just as the financial crisis was in the process of unfolding; Lehman Brothers would file for bankruptcy the very next day. Wunderlich’s Harrigan predicted releases in 2016 for Divergent and Now You See Me sequels “could plausibly each generate $100 million in profit,” even as a question mark continues to hang over a third big release next year, the fantasy adventure Gods of Egypt. “Lionsgate has only $10-15 million of production cost exposure with strong foreign presales and a 46 percent Aussie tax benefit.

The presidential election that would put Barack Obama in the White House was just six weeks away, and the worst economic turndown since the Great Depression was about to take its toll. Even if this film doesn’t break $500 million (which is unlikely, but stay with me), then you’ve turned $300 million into at the very least $1.2 billion. And I’m not saying Lions Gate will never have another hit, it’s just for now they have the Divergent series (which does half this amount of business) and a series of smaller sequels and re-boots in the pipeline. Let’s also be cognizant here that the actual Mockingjay book is nearly 400 pages, so splitting it into two parts is really doing the audience a favor.

Morgan analyst Alexia Quadrani in an investor note Monday said the recent weakness in Lionsgate’s share price was “overdone,” and that a buying opportunity was at hand: “Lionsgate is immune from many of the challenges in the current media landscape including concerns around shifts out of television advertising and the fraying of the traditional cable bundle.” Those districts are forced to work tirelessly in what are often poverty-level conditions by rulers in the Capitol, where wealthy and powerful residents live in extreme luxury. Remember Warner Bros. caught the same grief when it split The Hobbit into three separate films, but after the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, who could blame them?

The trilogy follows Katniss Everdeen (played in the films by Jennifer Lawrence, in a role that made her a megastar) as she’s plucked from her grim life in District 12 and whisked away to the Capitol to participate in the Games, finds herself caught in a fraught love triangle, and eventually becomes the symbol of a secret resistance movement as it fights against the system. Lions Gate has banked enough profits off these Hunger Games films to solidify its coffers for a while, especially considering it doesn’t usually make expensive films in the first place.

But the particular combination of story elements, at once familiar and deeply twisted, give the series a powerful contemporary resonance, refracting and reflecting the interlocking anxieties of the present-day US into an unusually potent sci-fi mélange. The ghoulish televised death match at the heart of the story owes more than a little to the reality show competitions — from Survivor to The Voice — that dominate network television programming today. The Games themselves, run by devious Gamemakers who operate according to their own rules, work as a bloody metaphor for the escalating trials of high school and the increasingly cutthroat college application process: They’re arbitrary and cruel, controlled by adults who claim to care but provide no alternative, designed to pit teenagers against one another in a merciless contest that authorities claim is for the good of both those involved and society as a whole.

Meanwhile, the abject poverty of the outer districts and their subjugation by the spectacularly wealthy elites of the Capitol recall both libertarian concerns about the power and privilege of an overreaching central government and liberal concerns about economic inequality. She’s earnest and self-assured, devoted and self-sacrificing, an expert bow hunter who quietly shoulders much of the burden of taking care of her family. She’s also skeptical and self-reliant, decent and kind but rarely trusting, intensely wary of any overarching ideology and keen to the ways that authority figures of all stripes — in the media, the government, elite society, or even alternative centers of power — want to exploit her for their own purposes. But a pawn is just what she is to the rebels she’s now aligned with. “You’re very valuable to us,” the rebel leader, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) says to Katniss as she asks her to continue making propaganda films for the cause.

It will stay with us because it offers hope that those who make it through that bleakness can escape, and make something better out of whatever comes next.

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