Catching Fire, the second installment of The Hunger Games saga is not actually an experimental art house film about a family arguing over a pizza order as they play an epic game of Monopoly, crossed the $400-million mark at the domestic box office this week. With a domestic haul of $409.4 million, the Jennifer Lawrence archery expo has passed Iron Man 3 as the highest-grossing domestic movie of 2013, which would be a notable achievement all on its own if it were not augmented by another trivia-worthy fact: Catching Fire is the first movie with a solo female lead since 1973's The Exorcist to become the top-grossing film of the year.
Entertainment Weekly's Mark Harris was apparently the first to notice Catching Fire's extra-rarefied place in box office history:
Buzzfeed further explained Harris's reckoning — other year-end title holders since the Ellen Burstyn/Linda Blair-led creepfest have featured female leads, but those leads have always chaperoned by a male lead, i.e. Titanic, Grease, Avatar, and two of the Harry Potter movies. Every reasonable moviegoer can probably agree that, though Peeta exists and does more stuff than just paint his face and fart around in the woods in Catching Fire, his role is still secondary to Katniss's. Ditto for Finnick and Gale.
One might even argue — and Buzzfeed's Adam B. Vary certainly makes a good case — that Catching Fire is really the first female-driven movie since 1968's Funny Girl to earn the domestic box office title because, although Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair creep around in the first half of The Exorcist, Max von Sydow shows up in the second half to steal all the dramatic thunder.
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