Talk about consistency. Exactly a year ago, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened with £10.12m plus £2.07m in previews. Now sequel Mockingjay Part 1 begins with a similar £10.32m plus £2.33m in previews. The 2% rise in box office (going just by Friday-to-Sunday takings) could be attributed to annual ticket price inflation.
Compared with the US result, the steady performance of Mockingjay is a nice outcome for Lionsgate UK. In North America, Mockingjay’s opening box office is 22% down on its predecessor: $123m, compared with $158m for Catching Fire. Lionsgate can be confident of an uptick for Part 2, which sees Katniss and the rebels storm the Capitol for a final showdown with President Snow.
In the UK, Mockingjay Part 1 has delivered the biggest opening of the year, regardless of whether or not previews are included. Previous best was The Inbetweeners 2, with £12.54m, including £4.49m in previews. Mockingjay’s previews-inclusive tally is £12.65m. The biggest-grossing film of 2014 to date is The Lego Movie, with £34.33m. Last year, Catching Fire reached £34.09m, which is presumably the target this time for Mockingjay. As per a year ago, Mockingjay has a reasonably clear run at audiences until competition from the Hobbit franchise arrives in week three.
For distributors, the great upside of films targeting older and upscale viewers can be their durability. This is an audience that is strong on weekdays and not just on the weekend, and one that can take its time to come out to the cinema. So it is proving with The Imitation Game, which opened a week ago with £2.74m, including £47,000 in previews. From Monday to Thursday last week, the second world war tale about codebreaker Alan Turing added £1.89m, and then this weekend it delivered an additional £2.13m – that’s down just 21% on the opening frame.