ByJerome Maida, writer at
Jerome Maida

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" surpassed the box-office totals of both its predecessor and "Iron Man 3" last week - and made history by becoming the first to buck an extremely strong Hollywood trend in doing so.

It passed its predecessor, "The Hunger Games"'s total of $408,010,692 on January 7 - its 47th day of release - by bringing its total domestic haul to that point to a staggering $408,372,775.

It then took only two more days to supplant "Iron Man 3" as the biggest blockbuster released in 2013. Robert Downey, Jr.'s third go-round as Tony Stark had held that honor for over a half year and seemed safe, with an incredible $409,013,994 domestic take. But Jennifer Lawrence's second outing as Katniss Everdeen bested that on January 9, when its total domestic take reached $409,392,651.

As of January 19, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" had reached $417.9 million domestically.

In hindsight, this seems to have been inevitable. With a bigger fanbase thanks to the synergy of people liking the first movie reading the books and more people reading the books in general, more aggressive marketing, Jennifer Lawrence becoming an even bigger star to the general public with her Academy Award win for "Silver Linings Playbook" and a prime holiday release date, the gut reaction is that..well, of COURSE it would do better than its predecessor at the domestic box-office.

By actually doing that, though, it defied incredibly strong historical trends. At the domestic box office, only 22 movies had earned over $350 million in their initial run. Of those 22, eight have direct sequels, and all eight of those sequels earned less than their predecessor domestically.

The Elite Eight included:

  • 1. "The Dark Knight", which grossed $533 million and saw follow-up "The Dark Knight Rises" fall to $448 million.
  • 2. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest", which grossed $423 million and saw follow-up "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" fall to $309 million.
  • 3. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen", which grossed $402 million and saw follow-up "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" fall to $352 million.
  • 4. "Shrek 2", which grossed $441 million and saw follow-up "Shrek The Third" fall to $322 million.
  • 5. "Spider-Man", which grossed $403.7 million and saw follow-up "Spider-Man 2" fall to $373.5 million.
  • 6. "Spider-Man 2", which grossed $373.5 million and saw follow-up "Spider-Man 3" fall to $336.5 million.
  • 7. "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace", which grossed $431 million and saw follow-up "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" fall to $310.6 million.
  • 8. "Jurassic Park", which grossed $357 million - taking almost a full year to reach that total - and saw "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" fall to $229 million.

The point here is that, when a movie's initial audience is at such an incredible level, it's extremely difficult to expand on that with the sequel.

Thank an aggressive marketing campaign by Lionsgate, the star power of Jennifer Lawrence and a growing fanbase for reversing such a daunting trend.

If the final two movies in the franchise follow suit, "The Hunger Games" could be remembered as one of the true phenomenons of our time.


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