The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in theaters next weekend, and it's not just Katniss and Peeta hoping to spark a revolution, catching fire along the way.
Lionsgate Films (NYSE:LGF-A) -- the studio behind the movie franchise based on the popular novel trilogy -- is hoping to bounce back after a disappointing showing for its most recent theatrical release. IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) is also hoping that it can score a big hit here with its premium cinematic experience. There's no doubting that the second installment in the series will fare well. The original was generally well reviewed, and it was insanely popular with young moviegoers. The Hunger Games rang up $408 million in domestic ticket sales, nearly cracking $700 million worldwide.
That's the kind of box-office tally that makes at least a decent start to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a lock on the multiplex front. The book series remains ridiculously popular, and it would only be negative word of mouth that could potentially sink the sequel.
Then again, spending lavishly on a popular futuristic book that's consumed widely by young readers isn't enough. Lionsgate knows this all too well from releasing the controversial sci-fi thriller Ender's Game last month. It will finally crack $50 million domestically this weekend, but after five weeks on the market it's safe to say that it's unlikely to make back its nine-figure production budget. Whether it was the mixed reviews, the author-related boycotts, or just the younger lead characters, Lionsgate doesn't have another Hunger Games on its hands with that one.
IMAX isn't as desperate as Lionsgate for a bounce. Yes, it got burned by picking Ender's Game for the IMAX treatment last month. However, it was able to quickly bounce back with Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Thor: The Dark World earlier this month. Disney's latest Marvel release from its Avengers universe passed the five-week ticket sales of Ender's Game in its second day in theaters. IMAX is in a much better place these days, with all of the major studios vying to have its potential winners remastered for the premium-priced projection platform. However, you can never back too many winners after a mixed slate of summertime releases.
Lionsgate probably thinks it has a winning series on its hands, but it also can't ignore what happened to Disney with its fleeting success in milking another beloved book franchise that was widely read by young readers. It also started strong, but every subsequent release shed a large chunk of its viewer base.
|Year||Movie||Domestic Box Office|
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
|2008||The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian||$141.6 million|
|2010||The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader||$104.4 million|
Studios can't take sequels for granted. Katniss and Peeta need to keep fighting for their lives -- for the sake of Lionsgate and, to a lesser extent, IMAX.