‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Scores Huge $25.25M Opening on Thursday

Sequel racks up an estimated $32 million overseas

Let the games begin!

Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” scored a huge $25.25 million domestic debut on Thursday night, according to studio estimates. Its late night grosses are the fifth highest ever, ranking just below the $26.3 million “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” generated in 2009.

For context, “Iron Man 3” racked up $15.6 million from 3,000 locations in Thursday night showings in May of this year. It debuted to $174.1 million domestically.

Also read: Jennifer Lawrence: 5 Lessons From ‘The Hunger Games’ Star’s Career

“Catching Fire” also had a better showing than the $19.7 million the first “Hunger Games” movie grossed from 2,565 locations in midnight shows last year, which was the highest midnight gross for a non-sequel in history.

Pre-release tracking has Lionsgate’s sequel, which brings back stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson as contestants in a series of gladiatorial games, taking in between $160 million to $172 million. The higher tracking numbers go, however, the less reliable they become, and expectations are that “Catching Fire” will eclipse those estimates.

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Giving credence to those suspicions, online ticketing service Fandango reports that “Catching Fire” comprises 92 percent of all weekend ticket sales and is its top advance-ticket seller of the year, eclipsing “Iron Man 3”

Overseas, audiences are also clamoring for Katniss Everdeen, with the movie racking up an estimated $32 million in the roughly 42 territories where it has debuted thus far.  The film’s international booty should be impressive, as it opens in 65 territories this weekend, including such major markets as the United Kingdom, Russia, Mexico and China.

Also read: ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Review: Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen Burns Brighter Than Ever (Video)

In this part of the globe, “Catching Fire” will be in more than 4,100 theaters nationwide, with more than 300 of those screens in Imax. The film faces one major hurdle when it comes to records. It will not be shown in 3D, depriving it of the premium ticket  prices that could bolster its opening weekend haul.

Domestically, “Catching Fire”s’ competition will primarily be the third weekend of “Thor: The Dark World.” The weekend’s only other wide release is “Delivery Man,” a sperm donor comedy starring Vince Vaughn.

Reviews for the film have been sterling. “Catching Fire” currently enjoys a 90 percent “fresh” rating on the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, a better score than its predecessor maintained.

In TheWrap, Alonso Duralde lauded the film for taking on heady topics like income inequality and oppression, writing, “‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ serves up food for thought and jolts of adrenaline in equal doses, which is more than most YA adaptations have managed to deliver. Dismiss it as a popcorn movie if you must, but at least they’ve bothered to serve it with real butter and truffle salt.”

The film was directed by Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend”) who took the reins from Gary Ross. Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn adapted the screenplay from the Suzanne Collins’ novel. Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik produced the picture.