Movie Projector: 'Hunger Games' to chew up box-office rivals again
For the third consecutive weekend, the blockbuster based on Suzanne Collins' popular novel is expected to top the box office. The film starring Jennifer Lawrence has already raked in over $260 million domestically and could collect another $30 million this weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
Still, the fantasy epic will face competition from two new entries, the fourth big-screen installment in Universal Pictures' raunchy "American Pie" franchise, and a 3-D version of James Cameron's classic 1997 epic "Titanic."
"American Reunion," which brings the class of 1999 back together for a high school homecoming, will likely start off with around $25 million. Paramount Pictures' revamped "Titanic" release opened on Wednesday and grossed $4.4 million, and will probably collect about $25 million in total by weekend's end.
The first "American Pie" was released in 1999, when the comedy with an infamous scene featuring a teenage boy having sex with an apple pie became a box-office hit. It went on to gross $235 million worldwide and spawned two sequels, which also collected well over $200 million a piece.
After the release of 2003's "American Wedding," however, Universal decided to downscale the franchise. The studio proceeded to release four straight-to-DVD spinoffs, none of which included the original cast — save for father figure Eugene Levy.
The home video sales proved to be impressive enough that Universal decided to bring the gang back together for a reunion film, co-financing it with Relativity Media for around $50 million. The Comcast Corp.-owned studio is notoriously short on franchises, with only its "Fast & Furious" and "Bourne" spy series finding success at the box office in recent years.
This weekend, "American Reunion" — which has earned decent critical reviews — is expected to appeal largely to young males. The movie will also open overseas in 26 foreign countries, including Russia and Australia.
The 3-D update of "Titanic," meanwhile, is hitting theaters in most major countries. After opening in 1997, the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as star-crossed lovers on the sinking ship broke records when it grossed $1.8 billion globally. At the time, though, theaters were scarce in countries like China and Russia, where moviegoing is now extremely popular.
Twentieth Century Fox, which is releasing the film internationally, is hoping this means the new version will rake in a significant chunk of change abroad this time around. Fox and Paramount co-financed the 3-D conversion for $18 million.
3-D re-releases have had a mixed track record at the box office in recent months. Last September, "The Lion King 3D" ended up doing surprisingly well, grossing $94 million by the end of its run. A 3-D conversion of "Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace," released in February, made a less impressive $43 million.
— Amy Kaufman
Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star in "Titanic." Credit: Paramount Pictures