With only days left until Lionsgate’s (NYSE:LGF) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is released in the United States and the UK, the amount of buzz surrounding the film’s release can’t be overstated. To put it simply, Catching Fire is set to be a box office monster — both in the U.S. and abroad. Directed by newcomer to the series Francis Lawrence, Catching Fire sees Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) forced to return to the even more dangerous 75th Annual Hunger Games as rebellion stirs in the districts. Here are five recent stories that show just how huge Catching Fire is set to become when it’s released on Friday.
1. The Catching Fire International Tour Has Been a Huge Success
Over the past week, Lionsgate has mounted a huge international tour for Catching Fire that saw the film’s stars pulled off the set of the two-part Mockingjay, which are currently being shot back to back. The tour, which saw premiere stops in London, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, and Paris, is part of a concerted effort to boost the sequel’s overseas box office — while the first film had earned a strong $408 million at the domestic, the overseas gross lagged way behind with $283 million.
Francis Lawrence, the director of Catching Fire and the upcoming two-part Mockingjay, told The Hollywood Reporter that, “We were at the Rome Film Festival, and there were probably 10,000 people.” Director Lawrence, who has previously directed blockbuster films like I Am Legend and Constantine, said “It was insane. I’ve never seen anything like it.” It shouldn’t be surprising if the previous film’s $283 million international box office take is trampled this time around en route to some truly huge worldwide numbers.
2. The Film’s First Theatrical Release in Brazil Was Huge
Brazil became the first country to have a theatrical release for Catching Fire last Friday and promptly blew the first film’s numbers out of the water. The film’s $2.4 million on opening day was three times the amount that The Hunger Games earned last year. So far, Catching Fire has earned $6.3 million in Brazil.
While Catching Fire’s $2.4 million opening in Brazil doesn’t seem spectacular at first glance, it’s the chance in performance versus the first film — three times better — that deserves some attention. Considering Lionsgate’s push for international awareness of the series, and the fact that the first film earned $283 million at the international box office, it isn’t farfetched to believe you could extrapolate that number to the entire international gross.
Could Catching Fire earn close to $800 million overseas this time around? It’s certainly possible. Just check out the numbers for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: $303 million domestic and $714 million overseas for a worldwide total of $1.01 billion. Those are the kind of numbers Catching Fire is chasing.
3. Domestic Box Office Tracking Is Skyrocketing
According to current box office tracking, Catching Fire is set to easily earn upwards of $150 million in its opening weekend at the North American box office. But at the higher end of the spectrum, some projections are calling for up to $185 million earned in the opening weekend, which would give Catching Fire the highest opening of the year and over $10 million more than the current number one film, Iron Man 3. Even if Catching Fire ended up with more “conservative” opening of around $160 million, the film is likely to hit some huge numbers during its holiday run.
But as Forbes points out, even without all the buzz, Catching Fire was set to perform better than its predecessor due to its release date. When The Hunger Games opened up last spring, it promptly found itself surrounded by films John Carter, 21 Jump Street, and Wrath of the Titans — while none of those were exactly heavy-hitters, it’s important to remember that The Hunger Games wasn’t nearly as well-known then either, nor was actress Jennifer Lawrence. Then, The Avengers hit theaters during The Hunger Games’ fourth week in release.
This time around, Catching Fire will have three weeks at the box office all to itself before The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hits theaters on December 13. But while Peter Jackson’s second installment in The Hobbit trilogy is sure to be a huge hit, it’s also not likely to overwhelmingly eat into Catching Fire’s moviegoers. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Catching Fire in the top two spots at the box office through mid-January.
4. Director Francis Lawrence “Hit It Out of the Park”
That’s what Lionsgate vice chair Michael Burn told Variety after the film’s Los Angeles premiere on Monday at the Nokia in downtown L.A. That sentiment also seems to be the consensus among critics in the early goings as Rotten Tomatoes’s top critics currently have a 92 percent “Fresh” rating for the film.
David Edelstein of New York Magazine writes, “Relatively speaking, Catching Fire is terrific. Even nonrelatively, it’s pretty damn good.” Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter was pleased with the film’s expansion of the previous film’s themes, calling the film, “A safe, serviceable, carefully crafted action drama in which the subversive seeds planted in the first story take welcome root.” But it should be no surprise that Jennifer Lawrence, who recently went home with her first Academy Award, steals the show. “Jennifer Lawrence, of course, is the real draw. Female role models come and go, and Lawrence’s Katniss is one of the better ones,” writes Stephanie Zacharek of Village Voice.
5. Catching Fire Is the Perfect Storm
Whether Lionsgate deserves credit for building up the second film in the Hunger Games series or whether we’re just seeing one of those phenomenons in the making, Catching Fire is looking like a true box office monster. It has a holiday release with no real competition for several weeks, it’s got great critical reception and word of mouth, it’s one of the most anticipated sequels of the year, and the series has a huge fan-base that’s grown immensely in the year since The Hunger Games was released. Following Lionsgate’s brilliantly timed international tour, it would be more surprising if Catching Fire earns less than $1 billion at the worldwide box office than if it does.