EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate‘s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is looking at a Thursday night between $5.75M-$6M after showtimes that began at 3PM.
Again, these numbers aren’t from the studio and we could see a slightly different result by morning. While some will be quick to yell that Marvel Studios’ misfire last weekend, The Marvels, began its weekend journey with a Thursday night of $6.6M which resulted in the lowest opening ever for a Disney MCU title at $47M, note that Songbirds & Snakes cost half the price of The Marvels‘ $200M at $100M. Furthermore, Lionsgate always covers their risk on a big title with a bulk of foreign sales.
Projections heading into the weekend were at $50M+ stateside, $100M+ worldwide. We’ll see where this lands. Part of the uphill battle for the movie is that it’s a brand new cast sans franchise star Jennifer Lawrence, and one character to crossover from the core franchise, that being Coriolanus Snow. Similar to that first movie when Lawrence wasn’t a marquee name, Lionsgate is rolling the dice on the Suzanne Collins brand’s relaunch on West Side Story actress Rachel Zegler as fiery tribute Lucy Gray Baird and even fresher-face, UK actor Tom Blyth playing Snow.
Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes‘ preview night isn’t that far from Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw‘s $5.8M (7PM showtimes start) which went on to a $60M opening; this despite the fact that movie was extremely male-leaning to Hunger Games‘ female crowd. Another comp that’s being used is Amazon/MGM’s Creed III which did $5.4M in its Thursday night preview and yielded a $58.3M 3-day. Closer to the female demo is Conjuring spinoff The Nun which minted a $5.4M Thursday and $53.8M 3-day with women turning out at 49% per CinemaScore over its weekend.
Note, Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes was never going to post a preview in the vicinity of the last Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 which came out in November 2015 and did a $16M Thursday night for the lowest domestic opening in the Collins franchise of $102.7M. Nor was Songbirds & Snakes bound to emulate Harry Potter 2016 spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which saw a Thursday night of $8.75M and 3-day of $74.4M U.S./Canada. Essentially, Hunger Games‘ fanbase isn’t as broad as Harry Potter‘s. (Fantastic Beasts skewed 55% female to Mockingjay 2‘s 60% female, with a majority of Potter fans older with 65% over 25 vs. Mockingjay 2‘s 50/50 split for the under/over 25 crowd).
Part of the challenge here for Lionsgate in getting audiences out to the prequel is that Hunger Games fans weren’t fully aware there was a new novel by Collins: It was released during the heart of Covid in May 2020 only seeing 500K sales in its first week per NPD BookScan when bookstores were closed. That sales figure ultimately rose to 3.5M copies sold.
While critics numbering 112 on Rotten Tomatoes are giving Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes the lowest score in the franchise at 64% fresh, the series has often been critic proof, and has held quite well during the holiday season. Mockingjay 2 amassed $198.5M in its first ten days of release thanks to the Thanksgiving day stretch.
Social media analytics firm RelishMix says that social media convo on Songbirds & Snakes “is running mixed-leaning-positive with snarky Gen Z and younger new Millennial fans whistling their praises for the latest entry to the franchise. Many are enamored by the nostalgia the franchise brings back from their childhoods: ’14-year-old me is so happy, and 25-year-old me is sobbing.’ Others remark, ‘Look, I have absolutely no idea what this book is about, but when I saw that bowing pose, it’s like seeing Katniss again. This movie will heal trauma from my childhood.’”
Other preview figures we’ve heard about, but Universal hasn’t weighed in on, is DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together with around $2M off showtimes that began at 2PM. That threequel is looking at a high $20M-low $30M start. The movie also has the lowest RT score in the franchise with critics at 62% fresh. If that preview figure is right, it’s heads and hair above Trolls‘ $900K in Thursday previews, and higher than the Tuesday night previews of Illumination/Universal’s Sing at $1.7M.
TriStar and Spyglass Media have Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving horror film which should do in the teens in its opening weekend while Searchlight’s Taika Waititi comedy Next Goal Wins is looking at single digits. More on those in the AM.