If you're going to blame someone, blame the terrorists. And if that doesn't work, blame Star Wars. That's Lionsgate's position this weekend as it tries to explain why franchise closer The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 underperformed to expectations at the box office. During a conference call this past Saturday morning, Lionsgate execs agreed that Mockingjay Part 2 did underperform by at least $100M. But they also claim that their TV division helped make up for the loss.
The conference call kicked off with Lionsgate executives announcing that they are increasing their 2017 release slate. Next year, they will bump up their output to four additional movies, from 13 to 17 feature films that will get a wide release. They also confirmed that they are aiming for overall lower film costs. The studio plans to focus on 'discipline production spends and a diverse portfolio'. While this was seen as good news by most, the underperformance of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 loomed large throughout the meeting, and how this loss affected the final quarter of 2015.
Lionsgate executives claim that the terrorist attacks in Europe were largely to blame for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2's poor performance at the box office. The film opened worldwide just one week after the Paris attacks. It's believed that many people were staying away from the theater out of fear. And that cost the movie quite a bit of money.
And then came Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened on December 18. Even though there was almost a month's gap between the release of the two movies, Lionsgate claims that the LucasFilm and Disney blockbuster shut The Hunger Games climax down, and canceled out any more interest in the movie. Lionsgate's co-chairman of the Motion Picture Group Rob Friedman had this to say.
"I think the combination of circumstances was unique between the terrorist attack in Europe and Star Wars. [The box office over-performance of Star Wars] hit our numbers by somewhere between $50M and $100M."
Some industry insiders are already raising their eyebrows at that big number. And it might just be fast talk from Lionsgate. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 failed to surpass the Chinese box office of The Last Witch Hunter, which wasn't necessarily a hit in the states. Lionsgate CEO John Feltheimer simply blames the date and competition that his movie faced at the end of 2015.
"[It was] all sandwiched together between The Martian and Spectre and we couldn't get the screens. We were disappointed in Mockingjay's performance in [China], especially since we did our first China premiere there."
Lionsgate says that 2016 was always considered a low contributor year due to the heavy production costs of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. But they believe 2017 will be financially strong for Lionsgate, because of both their diverse movie slate and the fact that they have more releases lined up. Friedman stated the following.
"Clearly we feel very,very excited about Power Rangers, Hood (which stars Jamie Foxx), The Odyssey among others - not to mention Now You See Me 2 is coming and we are already starting for Now You See Me 3. So, we feel we have a lot of IPs that have a lot of breakout possibilities."
Two big movies that Lionsgate believes will hit well with audiences in 2016 are the musical La La Land starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Finn Wittrock, and Gods of Egypt, which has strong buzz. There are also two unannounced horror movies being added to 2016's slate, which the studio calls 'major additions' to their 2016 line-up. That may be all well and good. But what do you think about Lionsgate blaming terrorist attacks and Star Wars: The Force Awakens on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2' poor performance at the box office? Sound off below.