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Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 03-19-12


 
Jennifer Lawrence – Star of “The Hunger Games”

Jennifer Lawrence – Star of “The Hunger Games”

Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games”

Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games”

Scene from “The Hunger Games” featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth

Scene from “The Hunger Games” featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth

“The Hunger Games” – In theaters March 23rd

“The Hunger Games” – In theaters March 23rd

“Hunger” homerun: Unlike baseball, where you never know who’s hitting a homerun, with movies you usually can see the likely homeruns well ahead.

A case in point is Lionsgate’s PG-13 sci-fi action thriller “The Hunger Games,” opening next weekend. Directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”), it stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.

This first episode in the much anticipated franchise is based on book one of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy about a post-apocalyptic world where teens fight to the death on TV to win food for their starving districts.

As its Mar. 23 opening approaches, “Hunger’s” tracking through the roof. Even conservative estimates have it kicking off to $100 million or more. Not surprisingly, its strongest tracking is with under-25 females. Better yet, it’s also tracking huge with under-25 males and over-25 females and, more better yet, has virtually the same high scores with both of those demos. It’s what movie marketers call a three quadrant film — the perfect combination for boxoffice success!

Lionsgate’s stock, which has been trading around $13 a share, has started to climb lately and some Wall Street analysts are speculating that it could soar to $19 thanks to “Hunger.” They’re thinking that if “Hunger” opens to $100 million it could wind up grossing between $200 million and $230 million in domestic theatres. Meanwhile, on the Hollywood Stock Exchange projections have been as high as opening to $129 million and having a domestic cume four weeks later of $295 million.

The model for “Hunger,” of course, is Summit Entertainment’s blockbuster franchise “The Twilight Saga,” based on four best-selling novels by Stephanie Meyer published from 2005 - 2008. Summit, which was acquired in January by Lionsgate for $412.5 million in cash and stock, has grossed $1.1 billion domestically with the four “Twilight” episodes it’s released to date.

The most recent franchise episode, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1,” opened last Nov. 18 to $138.1 million and did $281.3 million in domestic theatres. The second and concluding half of this episode, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2,” is scheduled to open this Nov. 16.

Two of the franchise’s previous episodes did even better at the boxoffice. “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” opened Nov. 20, 2009 to $142.8 million and grossed $296.6 million domestically. “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” opened June 30, 2010 to $64.8 million, but went on to do $300.5 million. The original “Twilight” opened Nov. 21, 2008 to $69.6 million and ended up with $192.8 million domestically.

With “Hunger” looming as a boxoffice homerun, 2012 will get a shot in the arm that should propel it through the spring and into what should be a strong summer for ticket sales. Through last weekend, the domestic boxoffice cume was approximately $2.2 million, up nearly 16 percent from this time last year.

Looking ahead, the pre-summer and summer months are heavy with the kind of popcorn movies that typically keep multiplexes packed — including Disney and Marvel Enterprises’ 3D “The Avengers” (May 4), Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures' “Dark Shadows” (May 11), Universal and Hasbro’s “Battleship” (May 18), Columbia and Amblin Entertainment’s 3D “Men in Black III” (May 25) and DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s 3D animated “Madagascar 3” (June 8).

Also, Paramount, Hasbro and MGM’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” (June 29), Columbia and Marvel Enterprises’ 3D “The Amazing Spider-Man” (July 3), 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios’ 3D animated “Ice Age: Continental Drift” (July 13), Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ “The Dark Knight Rises” (July 20) and Universal’s “The Bourne Legacy” (Aug. 3).

Bottom line: Lionsgate’s acquisition of Summit Entertainment put the “Twilight” and “Hunger” franchises under one roof, which dramatically increases the value of the company’s film library.

With one more “Twilight” episode and two or possibly three more “Hunger” episodes yet to come, this is a powerhouse package that should have Lionsgate’s competitors scrambling to find the next youth appeal book series set in a unique universe of its own that can transition to the big screen.