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‘Games’ nabs $19.7 mil at record midnight bow

Pic on track to score $120-125 mil three-day haul

Final returns from Thursday midnight screenings of “The Hunger Games” came in at $19.7 million, marking the highest midnight take for a non-sequel pic and validating predictions of an outsized hit for Lionsgate’s biggest bet yet.

More bullish estimates late last night had pegged midnight grosses for the film in the $25 million-$30 million range, though according to bizzers, some of the larger theater chains contributed less than expected.

The closest midnight comparisons for “Hunger Games” are “The Dark Knight,” which earned $18.5 million in midnights, and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” with $22.2 million.

Neither of those films provide much clarity in predicting three-day grosses for “Hunger Games,” since “Dark Knight” bowed during the summer with $158 million — the second-highest opening of all time. “Half-Blood Prince,” meanwhile, bowed on Wednesday and in three days collected $77 million.

Bizzers are estimating a $120 million- $125 million three-day haul for “Games.” But by no means is a commensurate bounty in the bag.

Why? For starters, “The Hunger Games” has an older audience that will catch it when crowds subside. Also, the film’s March launchpad doesn’t have the same breadth of out-of-school teens and tweens as a summer or holiday bow, though a portion of Stateside students are on spring break.

In addition to its non-sequel midnight benchmark, “Hunger Games” scored the biggest late-night take for Imax ($1.3 million), outside of the “Harry Potter” franchise. It’s also the seventh-largest midnight grosser ever on an industrywide scale.

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