After an impressive four-week run on top of the box office — a winning streak that was bound to end eventually — The Hunger Games has finally been defeated. And surprisingly, the new champ is Think Like a Man, an ensemble romantic comedy based on a self-help book by comedian Steve Harvey. The film grossed a higher-than-expected $33 million over the weekend, even though it boasts no A-list stars, no special effects, and received decidedly mixed reviews. (The Hunger Games, which grossed $14.5 million, came in third, behind the Nicholas Sparks weepy The Lucky One, which grossed $22.8 million.) How did Think Like a Man dethrone one of the biggest blockbusters of the decade? Here, five theories:
1. Its targeted marketing paid off
The film, which stars a predominantly African American cast, clearly benefitted from a smart marketing campaign targeting African American audiences, says John Young at Entertainment Weekly. The studio held screenings at historically black universities, promoted the film heavily on the BET network, and trotted the cast out on radio programs in top urban markets and on Harvey's popular talk show, says Michelle Kung at The Wall Street Journal.
2. Women and youngsters abandoned The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games likely suffered greatly because its two biggest fan demographics — women and young people — were buying tickets to Think Like a Man and The Lucky One. The audience for Man was 63 percent female, says Young. The Lucky One boasted an audience that was a whopping 76 percent female and 52 percent under age 25. It actually may be The Lucky One's Zac Efron who ultimately defeated Katniss Everdeen, says Amy Kaufman at the Los Angeles Times. Rougly 56 percent of The Lucky One's ticket buyers cited the young heartthrob as their reason for seeing the film.
3. Rapturous word of mouth spread quickly
Critics weren't sold on Think Like a Man, but fans clearly were, says Richard Corliss at TIME. The film received "nearly heavenly ratings" from CinemaScore, which tracks the opinions of actual audience members. It earned an "A" grade from all demographics, including "A+" grades from viewers under 25 and all males, indicating that strong word of mouth across all sectors bolstered the movie's box-office take.
4. Kevin Hart is really appealing
Think Like a Man may not have benefitted from an A-list cast, but the likability and burgeoning popularity of its ensemble, which includes actress Gabrielle Union and comedian Kevin Hart, certainly helped, says Nicole Pedersen at Collider. Hart, especially, may have been the film's biggest draw. The comedian shocked the industry last September when his independent concert film Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain came from nowhere to make nearly $2 million in its first weekend of release — in only 98 theaters. The film went on to gross a "surprisingly high" $7.7 million, says Corliss, and Think Like a Man's profile was probably raised thanks to the star's heavy social media presence.
5. Movies based on books are more popular than ever
The top three pictures this weekend — Think Like a Man, The Lucky One, and The Hunger Games — were all based on best-selling books, says Corliss. Adapting films from popular literature is certainly nothing new, but the triple-success of this weekend's three ventures hints that perhaps the strategy is more viable today than ever.