Hunger Games Catching Fire

Lionsgate pic has chance of breaking all-time November record

Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen is burning up the box office — though early returns show “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” probably won’t match the original’s opening this weekend.

Based on Friday matinee sales, industry observers estimated the U.S. launch frame would finish between $135 million to $150 million.

That’s a monstrous total that could place the Lionsgate tentpole in the top 10 domestic openings of all time, but it would trail the opening weekend of “The Hunger Games,” which is sixth on the top 10 list with $152.2 million in March 2012. The first “Games” carried the advantages of opening amid the massive popularity of the Suzanne Collins book trilogy and when many of its target teen and young adult moviegoers were on spring break.

Execs speculated that “Catching Fire,” playing at 4,163 locations, will do a higher percentage of its business during night-time showings than “Hunger Games” on its first weekend.

Early indications are that the “Catching Fire” can still break the November record set in 2009 by  “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” at $142 million, eighth on the list. But it’s  also clear that earlier forecasts that “Catching Fire” could match the opening of “Iron Man 3,” which had the top 2013 launch at $174 million, were far too optimistic.

The sequel’s Thursday-night numbers were solid with $25.3 million for shows starting at 8 p.m. The total was  28% ahead of “Hunger Games” and seventh-best for a Thursday-night opening, trailing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ at $43.5 million, “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 2,”  “Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn I” and “Twilight Saga: New Moon.”

Fandango, the online movie ticket site, said “Catching Fire” is the top ticket seller of the year in terms of advance ticket sales, eclipsing box office titan “Iron Man 3.”

“The Hunger Games” finished with $409 million domestically and $283 million internationally. Prospects are bright on the foreign front for “Catching Fire” with $32 million so far in 43 markets; some territories are seeing openings twice as big as that of the first “Hunger Games.”

The film opens in 65 territories this weekend. France, Belgium, and Italy open next week, with Japan launching on Dec. 27.

As for this weekend’s other wide release, DreamWorks’ Vince Vaughn comedy is failing to deliver. “Delivery Man,” a remake of the 2011 French-Canadian hit “Starbuck,” is poised for a soft $9 million opening.

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