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The 15 most impressive* box office performances of 2012 so far

We’re officially halfway through 2012, and if you’re an obsessive box-office junkie like me, that means it’s time to reflect back on the past six months at the movies and give credit to some of the best box-office performances. (Theoretically, it’s also time to think back to box-office disasters like Battleship, John Carter, and That’s My Boy, but we’ll save that for another time…)

There have been loads of strong performers with sensible budgets, so it was difficult to whittle down the slate (sorry, Safe House and Contraband, you were thisclose to making the cut!), but whittle I did. Thus, here is my totally-up-for-debate list of the 15 Most Impressive* Box Office Performances of 2012… so far. READ FULL STORY

Jena Malone to play Johanna Mason in 'Catching Fire'

One down, one more to go. The role of Johanna Mason — one of the most anticipated new characters in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire — may be taken. Lionsgate has reportedly already offered the part — a cunning, sarcastic Tribute from District 7 — to Malone, star of Saved!Sucker Punch, and, most recently, the A&E mini-series Hatfields & McCoys. EW reported last week that Malone was in the running for the role.

Mason, who eventually allies herself with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss and Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta, also appears in Suzanne Collins’ third book Mockingjay, so we can probably expect to see Malone in forthcoming sequels. Still to be cast is the role of Finnick Odair, another Tribute that aids the series’ protagonists, even though production is expected to begin in September with Francis Lawrence directing.

Read more:
Jena Malone in the running for Johanna Mason in ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ — EXCLUSIVE
‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’: Mia Wasikowska NOT in the running for Johanna Mason
‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’: Philip Seymour Hoffman offered the role of Plutarch Heavensbee

Jena Malone in the running for Johanna Mason in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' -- EXCLUSIVE

Actress Jena Malone (Sucker Punch) is in the running for the pivotal role of strong-willed tribute Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, EW has learned exclusively.

The character is described in author Suzanne Collins’ best-seller as possessing “a wicked ability to murder,” winning her Hunger Games by pretending to be weak and then picking off the other tributes. One open question about the character is whether director Francis Lawrence will keep Johanna’s introduction from the book, in which she first meets heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) naked — save for her green slippers.

READ FULL STORY

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire': Mia Wasikowska NOT in the running for Johanna Mason

Alice will not be entering the arena.

Contrary to a report last week, Mia Wasikowska is not vying for the role of headstrong tribute Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. According to the Alice in Wonderland star’s reps, Wasikowska has neither been approached for the role, nor would be able to play it given other film commitments she has for 2012.

Model/actress Zoe Aggeliki was also mentioned as a potential candidate for the role, but when reached for confirmation, Lionsgate had no comment.

Read more:
‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’: Philip Seymour Hoffman offered the role of Plutarch Heavensbee
‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’: Count out Taylor Kitsch as Finnick Odair
Who should play Johanna in ‘Catching Fire’?

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire': Philip Seymour Hoffman offered the role of Plutarch Heavensbee

While rampant speculation on who is or is not in the running for the role of Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire continues to set the Internet ablaze, producers have reportedly made their first offer for another pivotal role in the sequel.

According to multiple reports, Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman has been asked to play Plutarch Heavensbee, the new Gamemaker at the Capitol after Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) was creatively executed at the end of The Hunger Games. Plutarch is a far savvier political animal than his predecessor, and he plays a crucial role in the events of Catching Fire.

Hoffman just ended a widely acclaimed run playing Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman on Broadway, so why not take the summer off and then hop onto one of the biggest movie franchises in Hollywood? Should the deal go through, it will be the first major new role cast in Catching Fire. Director Francis Lawrence is due to begin shooting the film later this fall. Lionsgate had no comment.

Read more:
‘Catching Fire’ has not yet cast Finnick Odair; Generalissimo Francisco Franco still dead
‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ casting rumors: Who would make the best Finnick?
Who should play Plutarch Heavensbee in ‘Catching Fire’?

Box office report: 'Madagascar 3' roars with $60.4 million debut, holding 'Prometheus' at No. 2

Six weeks ago, The Avengers entered theaters and blew everyone’s expectations out of the water with its record-breaking $207.4 million debut.

In the weeks that followed, though, the box office fell into a bit of a slump. Expensive tentpoles like Battleship and Dark Shadows outright bombed, while major studio fare like What to Expect When You’re Expecting and The Dictator underperformed, and even Men In Black 3‘s number one opening felt weak given its predecessors’ strength.

Last weekend, Snow White and the Hunstman exceeded industry expectations, giving Hollywood hope that summer 2012 might live up to the hype that The Avengers had suggested. This weekend, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and and Prometheus continued to ease any fears that the box office was in trouble with robust debuts in first and second place, respectively. These hefty starts helped the Top 10 films gross $169.6 million, up a whopping 30 percent over the same weekend in 2011, when Super 8 topped the chart. READ FULL STORY

'Catching Fire' has not yet cast Finnick Odair; Generalissimo Francisco Franco still dead

CATCHING-FIRE

You know what they say, “No news is news.” Nina Jacobson, producer of The Hunger Games films, told the Los Angeles Times that previous reports/rumors/aural hallucinations that the filmmakers were close to casting someone as Finnick Odair were incorrect and the role is still wide open. For those not familiar with the Catching Fire novel, the part requires an actor who can pull off both abs and sarcasm — like, say, Ryan “Abs-and-Sarcasm” Reynolds. Unfortunately, the part also requires the actor to not be as famous as Ryan Reynolds because it’s just a supporting role.

“People are like way ahead of where we are,” Jacobson told the Los Angeles Times at Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards. “We’ve not narrowed things down by any means. It’s funny to see how things can take on a life of their own.” So all you hopefuls out there can just keep sending in those pictures of yourself wearing only a net to Lionsgate: This could be your big chance!

Read more:
‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ casting rumors: Who would make the best Finnick?
Robert Pattinson addresses ‘Catching Fire’ rumors
Update your calendars: Lionsgate renames ‘Catching Fire’

MTV Movie Awards: Check out the winners here

Voters for the 2012 MTV Movie Awards spread the wealth, bestowing Movie of the Year and Best Kiss to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1, Best Female and Male Performance to The Hunger Games‘ Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, and Best Hero and Best Cast to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2. Check out the full list of winners below:  READ FULL STORY

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire': Count out Taylor Kitsch as Finnick Odair

When the report broke that Taylor Kitsch in the running to play the dashing, love-sick, oft-nearly-naked Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, I was dubious. While starring in the sure-to-be-a-hit Catching Fire would help brighten Kitsch’s tarnished star power thanks to the one-two punch of John Carter and Battleship, Kitsch is already committed to director Peter Berg’s Navy SEAL drama Lone Survivor. That film will likely be shooting at the same time that director Francis Lawrence is in production on Catching Fire.

If there was any doubt as to whether Kitsch would abandon his close buddy Berg for Finnick’s golden trident, Kitsch himself laid that idea to rest today. When reached by The Los Angeles Times about playing the Hunger Games champion, Kitsch had a typically terse response: “Not going to happen.”

So there you have it. Armie Hammer, Garrett Hedlund, generic unknown dreamboat, the competition just got more intense!

Read more:
‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ casting rumors: Who would make the best Finnick?
Robert Pattinson addresses ‘Catching Fire’ rumors
Update your calendars: Lionsgate renames ‘Catching Fire’

Robert Pattinson addresses 'Catching Fire' rumors

Contrary to Internet chatter, Robert Pattinson will not star as handsome Finnick Odair in the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire. “I woke up this morning and saw all these things about me being cast in The Hunger Games,” Pattinson told USA Today at Cannes on Saturday. “I was kind of curious for a second. So I called my agent.” And? “My agent was like, ‘No,’” Pattinson said. “(My agent) was like no one’s going to offer you that part. I was like, thanks for the reassurance.”

In an EW poll in March after the release of The Hunger Games, 35 percent of readers said they think True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten should land the role of Finnick.  READ FULL STORY

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