- “The Hunger Games: Mockingbird and Serpents” is expected to earn between $42 million and $55 million in its opening weekend.
- Each of the other four films in the Hunger Games franchise debuted with more than $100 million in ticket sales at the domestic box office.
- The prequel to the $3 billion Hunger Games franchise, based on writer Suzanne Collins’ 2020 novel of the same name, is a standalone film set some 60 years before Katniss Everdeen volunteered as a tribute.
Tom Blythe and Rachel Zegler star as Coriolan Snow and Lucy Gray Beard in Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents.
“The snow is falling from above.”
That’s the mantra of protagonist Coriolan Snow in the upcoming “The Hunger Games: Songbirds and Serpents” and the hope of its distributor Lionsgate.
The prequel to the $3 billion Hunger Games franchise, based on writer Suzanne Collins’ 2020 novel of the same name, is a standalone film set some 60 years before Katniss Everdeen volunteered as a tribute. It debuts in theaters this weekend.
“Ballad” is headed for a solid start, likely pulling in between $42 million and $55 million, according to box office analysts, as the first new entry in the “Hunger Games” saga since 2015.
“It’s an interesting position for the ‘Hunger Games’ prequel because all of a sudden there’s an expectation that it has a chance to open on par with ‘The Incredibles,’ regardless of whether the latter film lives up to bearish predictions,” said Sean Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice .com.
Disney and Marvel Studios’ “The Marvels” greatly exceeded expectations when it debuted in theaters earlier this month. The film grossed $46.1 million domestically in its opening weekend, the lowest in the franchise’s 30-plus film history. The film was originally slated to earn between $75 and $80 million, but those expectations were lowered to $60 and $65 million just before the premiere.
“There has always been a certain magic surrounding the Hunger Games franchise,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “This latest installment looks set to take the goodwill generated by the original films in the series and turn it into something that promises to be worth a hefty $50 [million] plus a debut for this intriguing and exciting origin story.”
The film centers on young Coriolanus Snow, a man destined to be the president of Panem, the fictional country based on the continental United States. It sheds light on what caused his rise to the tyrannical ruler seen in later Hunger Games stories.
Although box office analysts see an opening of $50 million as a positive — given recent Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes and changing consumer moviegoing habits — “Ballad” will open significantly lower than its predecessors. Each of the other four films in the Hunger Games franchise debuted with more than $100 million in ticket sales at the domestic box office.
The Hunger Games franchise opening weekends
- “The Hunger Games” (2012) – $152.5 million
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) — $158 million
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One (2014) — $121.9 million
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (2015) — $102.6 million
There is some concern among box-office analysts about whether “Ballad” will be able to win back the audience that came out almost a decade ago for previous installments.
“We’re talking about a backstory that doesn’t have the star power that its predecessors did with Jennifer Lawrence,” Robbins said. “The fan base is a bit older now [young adult] genre is beyond its peak of popularity more than a decade ago.”
Prequels are usually challenging to market outside of an established core fan base, Robbins said.
“The biggest variable here is how much of today’s young female audience can attract this new Hunger Games story with an all-new cast,” he said.
So far, the film has a 61% score on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes out of 90 reviews, with critics saying that the exceptional cast and exciting story make the film a worthy return to the Hunger Games universe. However, some found the film’s pace too rushed. The screenplay is fairly faithful to Collins’ novel, which is more than 500 pages long.
The film is also a standalone, with no promises of future installments. The producers of the film franchise have said they have no plans to return to Panem unless Collins writes another book.
Still, “Ballad” arrives in theaters at a crucial time for Lionsgate — with the company about to spin off from Starz and following its recent acquisition of Entertainment One from Hasbro — and for the box office. It’s just the beginning of Disney’s animated film Desire and Napoleon on AppleTV+, which are due out next Thanksgiving week.
“It’s a table-setting weekend that theaters and studios definitely need after another fall holiday or famine season affected by release delays and industry strikes, both of which will continue to be felt through the holiday season,” said Robbins.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.