Box Office: ‘The Hunger Games’ looks for a mammoth ‘Harry Potter’ level opening

Forget ‘Twilight’ Katniss is going after everyone’s favorite sorcerer

Monday, Mar 12, 2012 10:25 PM
Gregory Ellwood

Get ready to hear a lot more about “The Hunger Games” than you ever expected.  The adaptation of Suzanne Collins 2008 novel has been the center of tremendous hype ever since it was labeled the “next” “Twilight” franchise after Lionsgate acquired the big screen rights in 2009. However, with only 2.9 million copies in print the fan base isn’t anywhere near the level Stephenie Meyer’s franchise (116 million copies in print as of Oct. 2010).  Well, much to even Lionsgate’s surprise it appears lightning has struck twice and “Hunger Games” is about to ravage your local movie theater.

Opening in less than two weeks, pre-release polling has the Gary Ross film drawing more movie audience interest than the first “Twilight” which debuted to $69.6 million in 2008.  In fact, while the studio is sticking by a $75 million projection for now, rivals say the data actually points to anywhere from a $130-150 million debut.  That estimate puts the franchise in the gaudy range of “New Moon” ($142 million) and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1’s” ($125 million) debuts.  That figure would also break “Alice in Wonderland’s” all-time March opening gross of $116 million which had the benefit of higher 3D ticket prices.  “Hunger Games” will only be released in IMAX and conventional 2D theaters.

“The Hunger Games” stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson among others. It opens nationwide on Friday, March 23..