HITS Daily Double
The Hunger Games is the biggest debut of all time outside of the summer blockbuster season


Blockbuster Opening Sets Up 200k+ #1 Debut
for the Soundtrack Album
Chalk it up to the brilliant setup, the massive popularity of the novel on which it was based, the power of social media or all of the above.

The Hunger Games opened with a staggering $155 million in estimated U.S. and Canadian weekend ticket sales, trouncing Hollywood's loftiest expectations and making it the third-highest domestic opening in history. The movie averaged a jaw-dropping $37,467 at 4,137 theaters.

The massive debut bodes well for Universal Republic’s T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack, which has a number of hooks of its own, with Arcade Fire, Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, The Decemberists and Maroon 5 among the participants. The album will easily top the chart, with a sa;es figure in the 175k range after a robust weekend.

The Lionsgate film, directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit), ranked behind only last summer's Harry Potter finale and 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight, making it the biggest opening ever for a non-sequel, and the biggest debut of all time outside of the summer blockbuster season. The $155 million tally was significantly above industry forecasts, which had the movie opening in the neighborhood of $125 million.

The $80 million movie, the first in a planned four-film series based on a trilogy of young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins, promises to anchor a blockbuster series for Lions Gate at a critical juncture for the company, the Wall Street Journal notes. Earlier this year, Lions Gate agreed to acquire Summit Entertainment, the studio behind the Twilight series, in a $412.5 million cash-and-stock deal that united two leading independent studios. As a result of that deal and buoyed by the success of The Hunger Games, Lions Gate is set to release between 12 and 14 films a year, putting it on par with the major Hollywood studios. "It is uncharted territory for us," said Lions Gate Vice Chairman Michael Burns.

The film's massive early haul surprised even those closest to the project, though they had certainly gotten indications they had a hit on their hands. Burns recalled thinking there might have been an error in a tracking measurement of anticipation for the movie. "I thought, Oh my god, this must be a typo," he said.

The Hunger Games
got off to a promising start, as midnight screenings took in $19.7 million. That made it the biggest non-sequel midnight opening in history, behind only a half dozen Twilight and Harry Potter films. "To launch a non-sequel at that number is mind-blowing to us," EVP of Distribution David Spitz told the WSJ.

Studio execs attributed the film's early success to the demographics of the audience, which was 61% female, with 56% of ticket holders over 25. Because the audience wasn't dominated by teenage girls, The Hunger Games didn't experience the drop-off in sales between Friday and Saturday common for movies whose core fans are willing to invest the time and energy to secure a coveted seat at an opening-day screening.

"It was, at its core, a really tough subject matter," said one Lionsgate executive. "The easy route was, 'we know that girls like the books, and so let's show the violence and get the boys.'" But the studio decided against that strategy, "and that's why we decided to never show the games" in commercials or other marketing elements.

Moreover, said Burns, "I think the world has gotten a little sick of seeing the best part of a movie