Disney's John Carter -- made on a whopping budget of $250 million (and $100 million for marketing) -- is sinking fast at the US box office.
On the other hand, The Hunger Games -- made by a smaller studio called Lionsgate -- is the film everyone is talking about.
Based on a bestselling series by Suzanne Collins, the film was reportedly made for less than $90 million. Early box office predictions say it will make about $200 million worldwide in its first weekend and earn over $750 million worldwide.
In North America, the conservative estimate for three days in the opening week is $100 million, with some analysts predicting a $140 million through the roof weekend. It will also prove again that mega hit movies are not the monopoly of big studios, just like the Twilight series movies that turned out to be superhit for the small company Summit, which was bought by Lionsgate recently
Many box office observers believe the new film is the phenomenon that young audiences have been anxiously waiting for after the Harry Potter series ended.
Fans of the books, which have been translated into 26 languages and have sold nearly 24 million copies in the US alone, have already snapped up enough tickets to sell out more than 1,000 shows in North America. With the increasing interest in the film, millions of copies -- some estimate 8 million -- have been sold in the last one year alone.
The survival drama stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, who must compete in a government-sponsored reality TV show that forces children to fight each other to the death: The last one standing is the winner. The two men vying for Katniss Everdeen's affection, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are also expected to become stars within weeks of the movie's release.
Lawrence, 21, stands to gain the most from the new film and is the main attraction from the film's cast. Her work in the gritty 2010 indie hit Winter's Bone, brought her excellent reviews and an Oscar nod for best actress. She expanded her fan base a great deal with X-Men: First Class, but it is The Hunger Games that could give her real stardom.
The series and the film will not only appeal to young women but also young males, thus assuring it a very high profile. It could also become the hottest date movie of the year. Collins, who has got some criticism for the books' violence involving children has responded by pointing to the powerful anti-war message in her story. And she also notes that not everyone sees the books as war novels. 'People view the books differently -- as romance, as dystopian, as action adventure, as political,' she has told Entertainment Weekly. 'So there seems to be more than one way into the story.'
The critical acclaim is not important at all for a film awaited with such eagerness. Even then, critics such as the widely syndicated Christy Lemire have praised the film for being an epic and intimate drama at the same time.
At the New York Daily News, Joe Neumaier gave the film five out of five stars, and calls the Gary Ross-directed movie 'light years ahead of Twilight It's better and scarier than its source book, and aims an angry eye at our bloodthirsty, watch-anything-and-cheer culture.'
The Hunger Games is the biggest and most expensive movie for Lions Gate that's known for making films in the $20million-$35 million range. Its most popular film till now is the anti-Bush docudrama the controversial Fahrenheit 9/11, the Michael Moore war commentary that took in almost $120 million in U.S. theaters and about $60 million abroad. It was made for less than $10 million.
'If you can get people excited while insinuating that you haven't even shown them the good stuff yet, it's an incredibly powerful notion,' said Jim Gallagher, a consultant who formerly ran marketing for Walt Disney Studios in an interview. '"Most films can't afford to play so coy.'
Critics point out that most advertisements aimed at a broader audience focus on the "reaping," an event early in the film in which Katniss, volunteers to join the games in place of her younger sister.
'It's a little bit like what they used to do with Godzilla movies back in the day,' Gallagher mused. 'You never get a clear look at him until you bought a ticket.'