That’s 33% behind last year’s massive $25.3 million Thursday night launch for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” But it’s also the top Thursday night number this year by far — 60% ahead of “Guardians of the Galaxy” at $11.2 million, followed by “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” at $10.2 million and “Godzilla” at $9.3 million.
With Jennifer Lawrence returning as reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen, the third edition of “The Hunger Games” also came in 14% below the $19.7 million earned by the first “Hunger Games” on its first night of release in March, 2012.
Thursday night numbers may have been held down the freezing weather that’s hit the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest and East Coast.
Lionsgate also reported that “Mockingjay” is up 5% overall so far from “Catching Fire” in international markets. It’s been the top opener of the year in all its early markets, including Scandinavia and Benelux.
“Mockingjay” posted the best opening day of the year in Australia and was up by 41% over “Catching Fire” in South Korea and 40% to 55% in Latin American markets. First-day launches in the UK and Germany were up 10%.
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Box office trackers have been forecasting “Mockingjay” will take in between $130 million and $150 million from 4,151 locations in North America during its openings weekend.
That will easily top the $100 million opening for “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in June — the year’s previous high-water mark.
“Catching Fire” took in $158.1 million in its opening weekend in the U.S. last year on its way to $425 million. It also grossed $440 million internationally.
“The Hunger Games” grossed $408 million domestically and $283.2 million internationally for a worldwide cume of $691.2 million
“Mockingjay – Part 1″ cost approximately $140 million to produce and also stars Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles before his death this year. Francis Lawrence, who oversaw “Catching Fire,” returns to the director’s chair.
The franchise is based on Suzanne Collins’ popular dystopian trilogy. Lionsgate opted to split the last book into two films, which were shot back-to-back. “Mockingjay – Part 2” will open on Nov. 20, 2015.