Jennifer Lawrence and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” blazed to $70.5 million Friday in its first day at the U.S. box office. That puts it on pace for a weekend total of around $150 million, very close to the $152.5 million that “The Hunger Games” opened to in March of last year.
Meanwhile Friday, it raised its total to $64 million from overseas, where Lionsgate has rolled it out in 65 foreign markets. It was No. 1 in nearly every territory, and the opening in Germany was four times larger that of the first film. It was three and a half times larger in Mexico and double in the U.K. and Russia.
The domestic debut would be the best November opening ever – ahead of the $142.9 million put by 2009’s “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” – and the second biggest of the year. The Friday number is also better than the $67.2 million that the first “Hunger Games” put up, before going on to a $152.5 million three-day total.
Analysts had thought “Catching Fire” might challenge the $174 million May opening of “Iron Man 3,” based on pre-release tracking which suggested an opening north of $160 million. But while the sci-fi action sequel averaged about $16,900 on its market-high 4,136 theaters, none of those were 3D. That premium price boost benefited both “Iron Man 3” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which posted the biggest debut ever with $207 million in May 2012.
“Catching Fire” received an “A” CinemaScore, so word of mouth should be strong and a Saturday surge like the one that powered “Iron Man 3” to its record remains a possibility. The Friday haul for “Catching Fire” is comparable to the $68.8 million first day Friday that “Iron Man 3” managed, which was the seventh-best ever according to Box Office Mojo.
Opening night demographic numbers suggest that “Catching Fire” is playing more broadly than the original. The opening night crowd was split evenly between those over 25 years of age and those under. And the audience was 59 percent female, 12 percent less than for “The Hunger Games.”
Around $25 million of that Friday haul came from early Thursday showings, which began at 8 p.m.
Directed by Francis Lawrence, the sequel returns Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth from the first film. Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin and Jena Malone co-star.
The adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bestseller carries a $130 million production budget. The first “Hunger Games” brought in nearly $700 million globally last year and “Catching Fire” is expected to top that, on the strength of a stronger foreign showing.
“Thor: The Dark World,” the No. 1 movie the last two weeks, was on pace to finish a distant second at $15 million, with “The Best Man Holiday” next and heading for around $12 million. The Marvel superhero sequel took in about $4 million Friday, while Universal’s Malcolm D. Lee romantic comedy sequel brought in $3.8 million.
The week’s only other wide opener, DreamWorks’ Vince Vaughn sperm donor comedy “Delivery Man,” brought in a soft $2.7 million from 3,036 theaters Friday. Distributor Disney had hoped for an opening in the $15 million range, but it will have a tough time cracking $10 million.
“Free Birds” “Last Vegas” and “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” followed on Friday, and all should wind up the weekend between $3.5 million and $5 million. Oscar contenders “Gravity,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Dallas Buyers Club” rounded out the top ten.
Focus expanded the Matthew McConaughey-Jared Leto AIDS drama by 482 theaters and it took in $776,000 from 666 locations.
Sony’s Tom Hanks piracy saga “Captain Phillips” fell off the list but its domestic total will pass the $100 million mark on Saturday.
Disney opened the animated family film “Frozen” in an exclusive engagement at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood and it brought in a strong $66,000.