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Box Office: ‘Mockingjay’ Soars to Largest Opening Day of Year, Despite Franchise Low

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” soared to the largest opening day of the year with $55 million on Friday at the U.S. box office. The third installment in the Lionsgate franchise is on its way to north of $130 million this weekend, which would be the best debut of 2014.

Despite the strong showing, the pic is far behind the first two movies, grossing over 20% less than its predecessors. Early U.S. box office projections for “Mockingjay” were as high as $150 million.

“The Hunger Games” launched to $152 million in 2012 and last year’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” debuted to $158 million. Unlike the two previous films, the penultimate installment isn’t playing in Imax because “Interstellar” is still showing on those screens.

However, the film is taking off overseas, having earned more than $67.5 million in three days at the international box office.

If the $130 million estimate holds, “Mockingjay” will have the highest-grossing opening of 2014 by a longshot, easily overtaking “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which opened to $100 million in June (it went on to haul $245.4 million in the U.S. and about $1.1 billion worldwide.) Only 15 other films have reached $120 million domestically in their debuts, led by “Marvel’s The Avengers” with $207.4 million in 2012.

Friday earnings for “Mockingjay” were also lower than the two previous entries in the hit YA film series starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” grossed $70 million on Friday in November 2013, while “The Hunger Games” reeled in $67 million on its first day.

Internationally, “Mockingjay” was the top opener of the year in nearly every market. It’s now showing in 85 territories (not including China) since hitting theaters on Wednesday, making it the biggest day-and-date release of the year and Lionsgate’s widest release of all time.

The film has accumulated $8.2 million in two days in the U.K., up 6% from “Catching Fire.” It hit $6 million during the same time frame in Germany, where the movie already had the top opening day of 2014. Meanwhile, the sequel earned $5.3 million in Russia, up 24% up from the last installment.

Analysts had recently projected that “Mockingjay — Part 1” would take in between $925 million and $1 billion worldwide, a 7% to 16% spike from the previous film’s $865 million gross.

As for the rest of the U.S. box office, “Big Hero 6” was a distant second, leading the rest of the pack with $4.5 million on Friday. Disney’s animated hit is headed for $19 million-plus in its third frame, which would raise its cume to $135 million.

Last weekend’s winner, “Dumb and Dumber To,” came in third Friday with $4.3 million, but will fall to fourth place come Sunday. Universal’s sequel is en route to just under $14 million, which would mark a 70% decline.

Paramount’s “Interstellar” came in fourth on Friday with $4.2 million, but will crawl up to third as it heads to a weekend between $14 million and $15 million.

Fox’s thriller “Gone Girl” rounded out the top five with $800,000 on Friday in a distant fifth as it eyed $2.7 million this weekend.

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