With just three weeks to go until the release of The Hunger Games, it's not all that surprising to see this breathless headline at Deadline: "Hunger Games Comes On Tracking Huge." Even though every box office weekend in 2012 has been ahead of what it was this time last year, you can practically hear them salivating at the prospects of summer box office season coming early-- the potential success of next week's John Carter aside, the March 23 release of The Hunger Games is likely to be the first big movie event of the year, the kind of thing that gets more people that usual interested in box office numbers, or at least makes for great stories about all the crazy kids lining up two days in advance to get tickets. You can see why media outlets-- yes, us included-- are getting pretty excited.

The numbers themselves at Deadline are a little jargony-- it's 23% "First Choice" and 54% "Definite Interest" among the people polled, which translates to huge box office, though it's unclear exactly what kind of numbers that might mean. Deadline predicts at $70 million opening or bigger, and notes that it would open higher than the first Twilight movie, which strikes me as a patently unfair comparison. Yes, the Twilight books were a phenomenon before they were turned into a movie, but when Summit opened the first Twilight in 2008, it had no idea what scale fandom they were dealing with, and gave the movie a minuscule production and marketing budget accordingly. When that movie opened with $69 million it was a stunning success-- it doubled its production budget in about 10 days-- and paved the way not only for more Twilight movies but, of course, The Hunger Games themselves.

There would be no Hunger Games without the Twilight franchise-- and more important, The Hunger Games wouldn't have the same massive marketing effort if the Twilight movies weren't out there to prove it was possible. Saying The Hunger Games will make more than the first Twilight is like saying The Phantom Menace grossed more than the original Star Wars-- it's true, but not really a logical comparison. WIth its emphasis on action, a broader fan base for the books and an ever-present marketing campaign, The Hunger Games is pretty much guaranteed to open big. If you ask me, $70 million is underestimating it.

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