“The Hunger Games” juggernaut could not be stopped this weekend: Lionsgate’s monster hit easily defeated “The Three Stooges” and “The Cabin in the Woods” for its fourth consecutive victory at the domestic box office.
It is the first movie since “Avatar” to notch so many victories in a row.
Also read: 'Hunger Games' Box Office: A Rare Four-Peat
The adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ popular young adult novel grossed $21.5 million domestically, according to studio estimates. That was better than the studio projected and a healthy margin ahead of Fox’s “Three Stooges,” which also did better than expected with an estimated $17.1 million.
“You plot and you plan, but it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised,” Richie Fay, president of film distribution for Lionsgate, told TheWrap.
“Hunger Games” has now grossed $337.1 million at the domestic box office, and more than a half-billion globally. The studio is moving forward on its “Catching Fire” sequel without director Gary Ross, who bowed out due to time constraints this week.
Fay said that "The Hunger Games" is likely drawing repeat business this far into its run.
"You just have to assume you're makiing everyone happy at this point," he said.
"The Three Stooges" also exceeded expectations in a weekend that was down around 11 percent compared to last year, when "Rio" debuted to nearly $40 million.
“The Three Stooges” was considered a wild card, due to the age of the original source material, which dates back to the 1930s, and its decidedly male appeal. Much to Fox's gratification, the younger generation turned out for the Farrelly brothers' adaptation, long a passion project of the filmmakers.
"This property has been around for a long time," noted Chris Aronson, Fox exec VP of distribution. "This is a new way to expose it to a new generation."
The strong debut opened the door for future installments of the knucklehead trio, played by Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos. "I know the Farrellys would love to do another," Aronson said.
The movie's audience was 58 percent male and 42 percent female, and got its strongest Cinemascore rating from the under 18 crowd, who gave it an A. Its overall rating was B-.
Lionsgate’s horror movie “The Cabin in the Woods” brought in $14.9 million. Co-written by “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon, it had strong reviews going into the weekend, and hit Lionsgate projections.
"That's right where we figured it would be," Fay said.
The other newcomer, “Lockout,” came in ninth with $6.3 million; Open Road is distributing for Film District under a service deal.
The rest of the top 10 was filled out by holdovers.
“Titanic 3D” and “American Reunion” took the fourth and fifth spots in the box office, respectively. The 3D version of James Cameron’s historic drama brought in an estimated $11.6 million its second weekend for a $44.4 million total, while the latest installment in Universal’s “American Pie” grossed an estimated $10.7 million its second weekend for a $39.9 million domestic total.
Relativity’s “Mirror Mirror” took sixth with an estimated $7 million its third weekend for $49.5 million. “Wrath of the Titans,” also in its third weekend, grossed another $6.9 million for Warner Bros.; its domestic total stands at $71.3 million.
Sony’s “21 Jump Street” scored another $6.8 million for a total of $120.6 million.
Universal’s “The Lorax” filled out the top 10 with $3 million. Its total is $204.5 million domestic.
"Hunger Games" will face another batch of competitors next week, when Zac Efron’s “Lucky One” and Steve Harvey’s “Think Like a Man” hit theaters.