Hail the victors: Catching Fire reaches box-office milestone

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Jan 7, 2014, 3:47 PM EST (Updated)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is reaching two huge box-office milestones today, and that's something all sci-fi fans should be proud of.

According to Screencrush, at some point today someone will buy a ticket to see the dystopian thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and push the movie's North American box-office take to just over $409 million. That will officially send the film past Iron Man 3 to make it the highest-grossing movie released in 2013. That also makes the two biggest movies of the year both science fiction films, which is cool enough on its own.

But, perhaps even more importantly, Catching Fire will become the first movie with a female lead to top the yearly box office in almost 50 years. The last one? 1965's The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews.

There are several interesting things to note here: First, Catching Fire is passing Iron Man 3 at the box office without the benefit of the latter's higher 3D ticket prices. The Hunger Games sequel was the only movie beside Fast and Furious 6 that was shown in plain 2D and still finished in the 2013 top 10.

Second, Catching Fire is not the only female-led sci-fi blockbuster to make a killing at the box office. Gravity has earned $660 million worldwide with Sandra Bullock in the lead (and mostly alone). Why is this important? Because, for years, Hollywood studio execs have moaned that action/genre movies with female leads are box-office poison -- in fact, that's been one of the excuses why we haven't seen a Wonder Woman feature film yet.

Sure, Catching Fire has a built-in fan base from the readers of the books, but those readers alone would not be able to push the Hunger Games movies to the box-office success they've achieved. And Gravity had no fan base whatsoever before it came out.

Our take? If you tell a good, captivating story with a powerful character at its center -- female or male -- you have a darn good shot at getting the audience to come. In the case of Catching Fire, it happens to be one of the strongest female sci-fi characters to hit the screen in years.

So congrats to the makers of Catching Fire, star Jennifer Lawrence -- and to sci-fi itself.

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