American Sniper surpassed The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 as the top grossing film at the U.S. box office released in 2014. But less than 0.4% of Sniper’s total grosses were made in 2014, from seven days of release in four theaters. Mockingjay – Part 1 remains the top-grossing film released widely in 2014.
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As of Wednesday night, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 eclipsed Guardians of the Galaxy as the highest-grossing movie released in 2014 at the U.S. box office, with $333.2 million.
Though Mockingjay - Part 1 has earned less overall than its predecessor Catching Fire, this is the second year in a row that a Hunger Games movie has reached this milestone, and the first time ever the same franchise has ruled the box office two years consecutively. But more importantly, it is the second year in a row a movie with a solo female lead — i.e. Jennifer Lawrence, as reluctant revolutionary Katniss Everdeen — has topped the year’s box office. Before Lawrence did it in 2013, the last time a movie with a solo female lead won the box office was 1973’s The Exorcist. That was 41 years ago.
With gender diversity behind the scenes in Hollywood no better in 2014 than it was in 1998, Mockingjay – Part 1’s win proves to Hollywood that women can headline — and, for that matter, produce — major blockbuster franchises, and people will turn out for them in droves and droves.
Lawrence’s back-to-back box office crown also marks another major Hollywood milestone: The last time the same star headlined the year’s top movie at the domestic box office two years in a row was 19 years ago, when Tom Hanks starred in 1994’s Forrest Gump and 1995’s Toy Story. But it’s more difficult to pinpoint the last time an actor starred in two top-grossing live-action films back-to-back. Box Office Mojo’s annual records only go back to 1980, and box office reporting before that year is dicey at best. The-Numbers.com’s box office database suggests that it would’ve been Julie Andrews, who starred in 1964’s Mary Poppins and 1965’s The Sound of Music — but that is including revenue from Disney’s multiple theatrical re-releases of Mary Poppins.
Suffice it to say, as far as Hollywood history is concerned, Lawrence is in very, very rare company, if any.
But the picture starts to look a bit different when examining the future at the box office. There is a chance that Mockingjay – Part 1’s top box office honors could eventually be eclipsed by American Sniper: The Oscar-nominated movie technically opened in 2014 in very limited release and had a record-breaking wide release last weekend. But 2014’s current second, third, and fourth highest-grossing films in the U.S. — Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and The LEGO Movie — co-starred Zoe Saldana, Scarlett Johansson, and Elizabeth Banks, respectively, as highly capable, kick-ass heroines. Lawrence’s achievement is no aberration — if anything, Hollywood is already chasing after her.
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