The much-anticipated Hunger Games movie opened today, and by all accounts it's going to be huuuuuuuuge (note how many U's we put there). The film already broke all presale ticket records, which, if you do a little movie math, means that it might just have the biggest opening weekend of all time. Indeed, it's an early contender for biggest film release of the year.
But then, that's not a title we can award so easily. It's only March, after all; most of the year's biggest films typically get released in the summer months, and there are gonna be a few cinema juggernauts hitting the screens this year for Hunger Games to contend with. Among them are two little movies called The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. So we at the MindHut wondered… which film will be the biggest?
The Hunger Games
Release Date: March 23—very early in the year, which could be a big help (not much competition at the movies). On the other hand, there's a reason blockbusters historically come out in the summer—lots of people, students especially, are on vacation. And students are definitely one of this film's biggest targets.
Plot: After being chosen to participate in a barbaric survival ritual, Katniss Everdeen has to fight for her life against 23 other teenagers from across the districts of a dystopic North America, now called Panem.
Audience: Adapted from a hugely popular book series, The Hunger Games has grown a massive following in young readers across the country much the same way Harry Potter did. As of 2010 over 2.9 million copies of the first Hunger Games book were in print, and no doubt that number's grown with anticipation of the movie. Beyond that, though, early buzz for the film is solid, with critics saying it'll please teen devotees of the series as well as older sci-fi/adventure fans.
History of Success: Though Hunger Games has racked up major fans in the book market, it remains to be seen whether those legions will all carry over to the film; there's no movie precedent for this. If we look at director Gary Ross' work, he's got a pretty strong cinema track record that includes Pleasantville and Seabiscuit, both of which could be called commercial and critical successes. There's no doubt that Ross knows how to make a film, and that he has solid material to work with, but will it be enough to knock out our other two contenders?
Release Date: May 4. Marvel Studios has a history of releasing a major motion picture the first weekend of May (both Iron Mans, Spider-Man 3, Thor, etc.), which has worked very well for them in the past. It also coincides with Free Comic Book Day, which is not necessarily a huge deal, but it does create a nice cross-promotion between the comic and film industries.
Plot: Earth's Mightiest Heroes—Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye—band together to take on threats they can't face alone. In this film they've got to battle the Norse god of mischief, Loki, who's running free on Earth wreaking havoc.
Audience: It'd be easy to write The Avengers off as just another comic-book film, but the truth is that those films do huge business. Marvel's movies typically have no problem bringing in tons of viewers; the Iron Man franchise, especially, seems to have an appeal that reaches outside comic book shops. General action fans rush to see these movies as much as geeks do, and when you put this many major characters/actors together in one film, you're gonna make cash.
History of Success: Again, Marvel Comics movies generally do very well, and you've also got to consider the director of this film—Joss Whedon—whose projects tend to be major successes critically if not financially. Whedon always benefits from a rabid fanbase that promotes him through word of mouth (think about Doctor Horrible or the too-soon cancelled Firefly), and it seems unlikely that Avengers would be any different.
The Dark Knight Rises
Release Date: July 20—right in the heart of summer, and the same opening weekend taken by director Christopher Nolan's previous two films, Inception and, of course, The Dark Knight.
Plot: Now hated by the people of the city he once protected (who blame him for the murder of Harvey Dent), Batman has become a wanted man. Eight years after The Dark Knight, he returns to Gotham City once more, where he'll have to face Catwoman, Bane and an angry public.
Audience: The thing about Nolan's Batman movies is that they kind of appeal to everyone. There are probably not a lot of people who skipped seeing Dark Knight, and if Dark Knight Rises makes even half the money of its predecessor, it will have been more successful than every movie that came out last year save three—Harry Potter, Transformers, and Twilight.
History of Success: This is probably why Dark Knight Rises' audience is so gigantic—Christopher Nolan is a trusted filmmaker who has never made a bad movie (and typically does very well at the box office). Meanwhile, Batman is a character that seemingly everyone loves. He's enough of a superhero to attract comic geeks, but he's realistic enough to appeal to people who don't normally care for spandex costumes. His movies, when done right, are moody, cerebral tales punctuated with moments of perfect action. Nolan's Batman franchise has been a rare example of films that truly have something for almost everybody.
Other Movies: There are a few other major releases in 2012 our analysis doesn't account for. Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Hobbit all stand chances of being the top box office draw this year—but, realistically, probably not as much as the three films above.
Our Prediction: Though it's going to be close, Dark Knight Rises will likely win the year commercially if not critically (though Hunger Games might end up with better reviews).
That's what we think. But what do you think? What movie will make the most money/be the most popular? Which one will be best? Which are you most looking forward to seeing? Let us know in the comments!