Lionsgate has not had a lot of luck competing with the big studios in terms of box office dollars in recent years. But with “The Hunger Games” already pulling in $300 million domestically, the studio is looking for this to be the start of something good.
So good, in fact, that it not only wants to continue that streak in 2013 — it wants to pound the point home with both a “Hunger Games” sequel, and its much-ballyhooed film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game.”
But it won’t be a spring and winter knock out like originally planned.
Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate, has pushed back the premiere of “Ender’s Game” from March 2013 to November. In fact, the new premiere date — Nov. 1, 2013 — is just three weeks before Lionsgate is set to premiere “Catching Fire,” the “Hunger Games” sequel.
Most other studios would avoid putting two major properties — especially two that are so close in terms of genre audiences — up against each other. But Lionsgate is doing this on purpose. The studio, according to The Hollywood Reporter, will now be able to publicize both films together, and actually use the excitement surrounding “Catching Fire” to get more attention to “Ender’s Game.”
Free (and co-op) publicity is great, but will it make up for the two films cannibalizing each other in November? That will be an interesting experiment to see played out.
Typically, “competing” films in similar genres are kept well apart. One outcome typically is that a lesser-known film opening earlier, like “Ender’s Game,” will be overlooked as fans anticipate the larger film coming up soon after, like “Catching Fire.” Even if the added promotion does give “Ender’s Game” a bigger box office grab, having a competing film open so quickly could destroy longer-range ticket sales, meaning “Ender’s Game” will have to capture as much cash as it can in its first three weeks.
Of course, studios will make it clear that most of the money for a film is made in the first three weeks anyway, and then it peters out. That’s true, but it’s not exactly the kind of thing theaters want to hear. Typical contracts between theaters and studios give theater owners the smallest cut of ticket sales in the first two-to-three weeks. After that, the ticket sales cut gradually falls more and more in favor with the theater.
If Lionsgate cannibalizes “Ender’s Game,” that could mean far fewer tickets being sold when theaters get the biggest returns. For a film that is expected to have a solid box office impact like “Ender’s Game,” it’s certainly not good news for theater owners.
“Ender’s Game” is written and directed by Gavin Hood and stars Asa Butterfield as Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a child sent to train as an alien fighter. The film also stars Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley.
“Ender’s Game” will now open Nov. 1, with “Catching Fire” to follow Nov. 22. Gary Ross is expected to return to film the “Hunger Games” sequel, but Lionsgate has yet to finalize a deal with the director. Filming for that movie is expected to start this summer.