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Box Office: ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Lights Up Theaters With $161 Million Domestic

Lionsgate sequel scores the fourth-highest domestic opening of all time with $307 milllion worlwide debut

Seizing the fourth-highest domestic opening of all time, Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” scored a whammo estimated $161.1 million in three-days, with $307.7 million worldwide from 65 territories, making it the 12th-largest worldwide debut ever.

“Catching Fire” now has the largest domestic opening in November, as well as the biggest for Lionsgate. The sequel eclipsed its predecessor’s bow handily; that film made $146 million during opening weekend in March 2012.

SEE ALSO: Film Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

Playing second fiddle to “Catching Fire,” Disney-DreamWorks’ Vince Vaughn comedy “Delivery Man” delivered a modest-though-respectable $8.2 million Stateside debut.

“Catching Fire” stands behind “The Avengers,” which holds the all-time domestic opening record with $207 million, followed by “Iron Man 3,” with $174 million, and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” ($169 million).

The opening of “Catching Fire” is that much more impressive considering most observers expected the film to top out at around $140 million in three days, based on the Friday grosses. The film, however, saw a better-than-usual Friday-to-Saturday uptick (not including Thursday night previews), up 16%.

“When you take a look at the blockbusters released around this time, the ‘Harry Potters’ and ‘Twilights,’ the one thing that is different with this film is our Saturday increase,” said Lionsgate distribution exec David Spitz. “To us, that is a direct illustration of how well the film is playing.”

Led by Imax, premium large-format presentations helped boost the weekend performance for “Catching Fire.” Imax alone grossed $12.6 million from 347 engagements, averaging more than $36,000 per screen; while other PLF locations, including Cinemark’s XD brand, generated $9.6 million on 314 runs.

In limited release, the Weinstein Co. released its Judi Dench weeper, “Philomena,” at four locations, where it averaged a strong $33,429 per screen. The film grossed a total estimated $133,716 domestically through Sunday.

Paramount also expanded Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” into the top 10 U.S. markets, totaling 28 engagements, with an estimated take of $350,000 and a per-screen average projected at $12,500. “Nebraska” has cumed more that $540,000 after two weeks.

And in other box office news, Sony’s “Captain Phillips” continues to appeal to adults, grossing an estimated $1.8 million in its seventh week, pushing the film past the $100 million domestic mark. Globally, the Tom Hanks thriller has reached north of $175 million in theatrical ticket sales.

‘Fire’ abroad

Since the first film launched in March 2012, Lionsgate made a concerted effort to grow the popularity of “The Hunger Games” brand overseas. Success.

In 63 international territories, “Catching Fire” grossed a whopping $146.6 million, nearly half of what the original made internationally ($286.3 million). Producer Nina Jacobson said the sequel’s success in places like Germany, where the book already was hugely popular, and Italy is a testament to Lionsgate’s marketing and publicity strategy.

“You can’t really prepare yourself for this,” Jacobson told Variety, “but you always try to up the ante.”

Lionsgate held a premiere for “Catching Fire” in Rome, as well as promoted the pic at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

“We always knew that the biggest opportunity for growth was on the international front, so we locked arms with our partners around the world to create a united effort,” said Lionsgate publicity maven Julie Fontaine. “This included hosting the world premiere in the UK and rolling out international premieres ahead of the U.S.”

Outside the U.S. and Canada, the top contributing markets were the U.K. and Germany, which grossed $19.8 million and $12.8 million, respectively. Both grosses were considerably larger than the first film locally.

Domestic

Film (Weeks in release): 3-day gross*; Locations; Per-theater average; Cume*; Percentage change

  1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (1): $161.1; 4,163; $38,704; $161.1; —
  2. Thor: The Dark World (3): $14.1; 3,713; $3,802; $167.8; -61%
  3. The Best Man Holiday (2): $12.5; 2,041; $6,135; $50.4; -58%
  4. Delivery Man (1): $8.2; 3,036; $2,706; $8.2; —
  5. Free Birds (4): $5.3; 3,071; $1,726; $48.6; -35%
  6. Last Vegas (4): $4.4; 2,926; $1,504; $53.9; -48%
  7. Jackass … Bad Grandpa (5): $3.5; 2,625; $1,314; $95.5; -54%
  8. Gravity (8): $3.3; 1,845; $1,791; $245.5; -46%
  9. 12 Years a Slave (6): $2.8; 1,474; $1,900; $29.4; -39%
  10. Dallas Buyers Club (4): $2.8; 666; $4,159; $6.5; +58%

Overseas

Film (Weeks in release): 3-day gross*; Territories; Screens; Int’l cume*; Global cume*; Percentage change

  1. The Hunger Games (1): $146.6; 65; n/a; $146.6; $307.7; —
  2. Gravity (8): $46.6; 58; 9,300; $331.5; $577.0; +152%
  3. Thor: The Dark World (4): $24.8; 71; n/a; $381.0; $548.8; -55%
  4. Captain Phillips (6): $6.8; 73; 2,870; $76.3; $177.0; -17%
  5. The Counselor (3): $5.4; 44; 3,204; $30.2; $47.0; -53%

*in millions of $

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