When you can’t make a sequel, try a prequel.
It worked for Norman Bates and the “Psycho” franchise. AMC’s “Bates Motel” ran for five seasons and spun a credible tale from the tortured soul’s teen years.
“Hannibal Rising,” the precursor to “Silence of the Lambs?” Not so much.
Now, we have “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” with an equally bloated running time – two hours and 37 minutes.
The prequel stars Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth in a tale set decades before the events of the film series starring Jennifer Lawrence. The movie opens Friday and, so far, has earned tepid approval from critics at 67 percent “fresh.”
The numbers share a more ominous story.
BoxOfficePro.com, a reliable projection site, says Lionsgate’s “Songbirds & Snakes” will earn between $38 to $50 million in its opening frame. Those numbers project to a $97 to $157 million stateside run.
Those are impressive figures for many movies, but hardly for a prequel to a beloved saga.
Here are the opening weekend figures from the first four films in the saga.
- “The Hunger Games” (2012) – $152 million
- “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013) – $158 million
- “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” (2014) – $121 million
- “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” (2015) – $102 million
The figures suggest interest was already waning in the franchise prior to its newest installment. It looks like the prequel will, at best, debut with half of the lowest-performing entry.
Plus, star Zegler isn’t exactly box office catnip. The 22-year-old is better known for trashing Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” than rallying audiences to her projects. Both “West Side Story” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” flopped.
The just-wrapped actors strike has kept her on the promotional sidelines until this week.
— Variety (@Variety) November 14, 2023
One saving grace for the franchise? The new film’s budget is a reasonable $100 million, a far cry from recent box office duds like “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” ($300 million) and “The Marvels” ($220 to $275 million, various reports).
Should “Songbirds & Snakes” over-perform or “have legs” it could be profitable for Lionsgate. It also may depend heavily on overseas ticket sales. The franchise has done well in that regard, but China no longer delivers big box office figures for U.S. titles.