The Weekend Warrior: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Delivery Man

If there’s any doubt that November can bring some big movies after the success of Thor: The Dark World, then Katniss Everdeen’s return in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) should put any doubts to rest as it vies for the November box office records set by the “Twilight” movies (and the “Harry Potter” movies before them).

Based on the first in Suzanne Collins’ popular series of bestselling books, the original “Hunger Games” was released in March 2012, not exactly a time when you’d expect a huge blockbuster and yet, it achieved the third-highest opening weekend with $152.5 million. (Since its opening, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and Iron Man 3 have pushed it down to #6.) It went on to gross $408 million during the normally slow spring movie season, making it the 14th-highest grossing movie domestically. With that sort of opening for the first installment, of course, most will be expecting the sequel to open much bigger and that’s certainly reasonable enough since historically, sequels to popular movies do open bigger—see how the “Fast and Furious” movies built on the success of one installment for the next one to open bigger.

Directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Gary Ross (Seabiscuit), the original movie starred Jennifer Lawrence, who had already been nominated for an Oscar for her work in Winter’s Bone and appeared in the franchise prequel X-Men: First Class as Mystique, but was taking on a big task in bringing the beloved Y-A character Katniss Everdeen to life. Since then, Lawrence has become even more popular since appearing opposite Bradley Cooper in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, for which she won the Oscar. Once again, Katniss’ two love interests are played by long-time child actor Josh Hutcherson and hunky Liam Hemsworth, Thor’s little brother, and the cast included many vets including Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland, playing characters who were so fully realized in Collins’ books.

With director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) stepping into the director’s chair, the sequel involves Katniss and Peeta returning for the 75th Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell, which is almost like an all-star game of past victors. These include Sam Claflin from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Snow White and the Huntsman as the popular competitor Finnick Odair, as well as Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, Lynn Cohen and more. The cast is rounded out with the addition of Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new Gameskeeper, Plutarch Heavensbee.

There’s obviously a lot of positive factors going for “Catching Fire” from the popularity of the second book to the amazing cast that has been assembled for the sequel and though most fans know this movie is coming out, Lionsgate has still been taking the movie around the world to promote it and get the most exposure for it as possible. This is obviously a major event movie and considering how long the fans had to wait–really, it was only 20 months but that’s like forever in this short attention span world–we can certainly expect a lot of advance tickets to be sold so that fans can see it as soon as possible.

While the movie probably won’t beat the opening records set by The Avengers and Iron Man 3, both which benefited from their early summer releases, it has a good chance at giving “The Dark Knight” movies a run for their money if fans of the books and original movie rush out to see it this weekend, as is bound to happen. The November release shouldn’t really hurt it much when considering that the first movie opened in March, but the movie will probably do a ton of business on Thursday night and Friday and then tail off over the weekend. If this as good as the reviews are saying (and in our opinion it is), we should see “Catching Fire” easily matching or surpassing the original’s $400 million plus gross, although it does have a lot of other movies that can steal away its business over the coming month. An opening in the low-to-mid $160 million range is almost guaranteed either way with $70 to 75 million of that coming in Thursday and Friday.

My Review

Offered as the weirdest counterprogramming since About Time, Vince Vaughn stars in the dramedy Delivery Man (DreamWorks), a remake of Ken Scott’s French-Canadian hit Starbuck with Scott back behind the director’s camera. It’s a funny premise where Vaughn’s character learns he’s fathered 533 children through a sperm bank mix-up–man, I hate when that happens–which makes him decide to try to be a better father by watching over the kids. Co-starring Chris Pratt and Cobey Smulders, there’s certainly going to be interest in the movie, but it may be one of those movies where people wait to see it with family over Thanksgiving when they’ll also have lots of other choices.

Vince Vaughn’s star power has definitely been failing in recent years. Where he once was starring in movies that opened over $30 million, as recently as 2009, his last few movies have barely cracked $18 million at opening with nothing grossing more than $50 million. His most recent reunion with his Wedding Crashers co-star Owen Wilson opened with $17.3 million and ended up with a disappointing $44.6 million and less than $100 million worldwide.

Delivery Man has a huge following on its Facebook page which shows that there’s interest for the movie with Disney doing a concentrated push to Mommy bloggers over the past few months. The problem is that all that pushing and promoting to Mommy Bloggers doesn’t really work if you open the movie against a big blockbuster that many Mommies would rather see and that’s the problem facing Vaughn’s latest, something that will probably keep it under $15 million for the weekend although we don’t think it will bomb nearly as badly as DreamWorks’ recent The Fifth Estate.

After a successful limited run, including breaking into the Top 12 last weekend in just 184 theaters, it’s very likely that the drama Dallas Buyers’ Club (Focus Features), starring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in what many feel are Oscar-worthy roles as well as Jennifer Garner, will expand wider, possibly even nationwide? We don’t have a definite theater count but $3 million is roughly what it’s going to need to break into the Top 10. If it expands into 500 or 600 theaters that may be happen going by its $9000 average in 184 theaters last weekend, but this really a movie that’s more about the long game as it starts being nominated and winning awards after Thanksgiving.

This weekend last year was Thanksgiving, so our week-to-week comparison thing is kind of screwed. In fact, it’s so screwed that we probably should instead compare it to last year’s weekend before Thanksgiving when the last chapter of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 opened, even though we did that comparison last weekend. That made $141.1 million on its own, an amount “Catching Fire” should surpass, but also–and we forgot to mention this last week–Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (DreamWorks), starring Daniel Day-Lewis, expanded nationwide into 1,775 theaters where it brought in $21 million to take third place behind “Twilight” and Skyfall. That weekend’s Top 10 grossed $240.9 million which can be reachable if “Catching Fire” does even better than we predicted but may fall just short as we don’t expect any other movie to make more than $20 million this weekend.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

UPDATE: A couple minor updates but the main one is that we want to confirm that we think Focus Features’ Dallas Buyers Club will break into the Top 10 this weekend with its wide expansion into 666 theaters, which will put it neck and neck with 12 Years a Slave fighting it out for 9th and 10th place.

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) – $164.3 million N/A (up 1.8 million)

2. Thor: The Dark World (Disney/Marvel) – $17 million -54%

3. The Best Man Holiday (Universal Pictures) – $14.5 million -52% (up .3 million)

4. Delivery Man (DreamWorks) – $11.5 million N/A

5. Last Vegas (CBS Films) – $5.3 million -38%

6. Free Birds (Relativity Media) – $4.8 million -41%

7. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Paramount) – $3.8 million -48%

8. Gravity (Warner Bros.) – $3.5 million -43% (down .1 million)

9. Dallas Buyers’ Club (Focus Features) – $3.3 million

10. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) – $3.3 million -28%

This week’s CHOSEN ONE is Stephen Frears’ new movie Philomena (The Weinstein Company), starring Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the script), and it’s a wonderful film that has humor and drama in equal parts, but what really works at its core is the chemistry between the two actors.

Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith, a fallen politician who returns to his journalism roots and is assigned a fluff piece with an elderly woman (Dench) who claims that her son was taken away from her almost 50 years earlier. Sexsmith takes on the assignment begrudgingly and immediately has difficulties communicating with the old woman. Even so, he does see a bigger story, and they travel together to the Irish abbey where she spent her teen years looking for information about her son and then to North America to try to find him.

It sounds fairly simple and even somewhat mundane, but the film is filled with so many twists and turns with Dench and Coogan making such an entertaining duo that you’re along for the journey and wherever it takes them pretty quickly.

I’m going to have a full review of this later this week, but it was one of my favorite movies at the Toronto International Film Festival a few months back, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. It opens in select cities this Friday before expanding “everywhere” on Wednesday, November 27.

My Review (Coming Soon!)

Five days before its nationwide release, Disney Animation’s latest offering, the animated musical Frozen (Walt Disney Pictures), featuring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idinia Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad and Alan Tudyk, is getting an exclusive run at Los Angeles’ El Capitan Theater. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the comedy-adventure follows Anna, who teams with the mountain man Kristoff on a quest to try to find her sister Elsa, having all sorts of encounters along the way.

Mark Mori’s documentary Bettie Page Reveals All (Music Box Films) takes a look at one of the world’s most recognized sex symbols narrated via an interview the director conducted with Page a decade before her death, embellished by archival photos and footage. It opens in New York on Friday and in Los Angeles on November 29.

Max Lucado’s novel The Christmas Candle (EchoLight Studios) is adapted to the screen, directed by John Stephenon. Set in an English village in 1890, it tells the story of a candlemaker whose livelihood is coming to an end with the advent of electricity, so he’s granted one miracle from an angel. Starring Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks, Lesley Manville and Susan Boyle (Yes, that one), it opens in roughly 400 theaters this weekend after a small limited run last week.

Eric England’s horror drama Contracted (Arclight Films) stars Najarra Townsend as a party girl with little discipline who has to move back in with her overbearing mother (Caroline Williams), so she enters a flower competition, but after a one night stand with a mysterious man, something seems to be infecting her that’s more than just an STD. The tagline says “Prepare to witness a zombie film like you’ve never even imagined” and I say to that tagline, “No, thanks. You lost me at flower competition.”

Lebanese director Rola Nashef expands upon his award-winning 2007 short with the romantic dramedy Detroit Unleaded, a modern take on Romeo and Juliet that tells the story of Lebanese-American Sami, who takes over the family gas station after his father is murdered where he meets Najlah, a girl delivering cheap long distance phone cards. Having won the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, it opened in Detroit last week, but will expand to New York’s Cinema Village on Friday.

Frank Simon co-directed the documentary Weekend of a Champion (Submarine Deluxe) with legendary filmmaker Roman Polanski documenting a weekend the latter spent in 1971 following race car driver Sir Jackie Stewart at the Monaco Grand Prix as well as reuniting the men forty years later. It opens at the IFC Center in New York on Friday.

Next week, it’s Thanksgiving and while we’re thankful that we’ve had a few relatively light weeks, there are a lot more movies to write about including the nationwide expansion of the animated musical Frozen (Walt Disney Studios), the holiday ensemble drama Black Nativity (Fox Searchlight) starring Forest Whitaker, and Jason Statham and James Franco in the action-thriller Homefront (Open Road Films). Also, Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy (FilmDistrict), starring Josh Brolin, opens moderately.

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.”

Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas


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