‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ Conquers Box Office with Year’s Best Opening at $123 Million

U.S. debut fails to match that of first two films in the Jennifer Lawrence sci-fi series but it dominates overseas with huge $152 million

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” conquered the weekend box office with a year’s best $123 million opening, but it failed to match the heights of the previous installments in the blockbuster young adult franchise.

With Jennifer Lawrence returning as Katniss Everdeen, the debut of “Mockingjay” came in well below the two previous entries in the sci-fi adventure series based on Suzanne Collins‘ best-selling trilogy. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” opened to $158 million on this weekend last year, and “The Hunger Games” opened with $152.5 million in March of 2012.

Distributor Lionsgate Entertainment rolled out “Mockingjay” in 85 foreign markets as well this weekend and it dominated overseas, bringing in a whopping $152 million and opening at No. 1 in virtually every territory. The $275 million first-weekend global total for “Mockingjay” is under that of “Catching Fire” but over the $218 million of “The Hunger Games.”

“Mockingjay” handily beat the previous best opening of 2014, the $100 million June debut of Paramount’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” But it was under the projections of the studio and analysts, who foresaw a three-day total between $130 million and $150 million. Still, it was the 15th biggest opening of all time, and the best since that of “Catching Fire.” No franchise has had the first three films open above $120 million before.

Disney Animation’s “Big Hero 6” was a distant second with $20 million, raising its domestic total past $135 million after three weeks. Christopher Nolan‘s space epic “Interstellar” was third with $15.1 million and has taken in $120.6 million in its third week. Last week’s No. 1 movie, the Jim Carrey-Jeff Daniels comedy sequel “Dumb and Dumber To,” was fourth with $13.8 million.

The overall box office was off roughly 13 percent from the comparable week last year, when “Catching Fire” led the way.

Audiences — 60 percent women and 52 percent under the age of 25 — gave the Francis Lawrence-directed “Mockingjay” an “A-” CinemaScore. That’s just below the “A” grades that both “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” received from first-night moviegoers. The critics liked the first two films a little better, too. “Mockingjay” is at 68 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, while “The Hunger Games” had an 84 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and “Catching Fire” was at 89.

“Mockingjay” was in a saturation-level 4,151 theaters domestically but wasn’t shot in 3D and isn’t showing in IMAX theaters, and so it did not get the boost in grosses from those ticket upcharges. The giant screen company opted to stick with Christopher Nolan’s space epic “Interstellar” in its third week instead.

Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Jena Malone and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman co-star in “Mockingjay,” along with franchise newcomers Julianne Moore and Natalie Dormer.

Lionsgate split the final book in the trilogy into two films, and they were shot back-to-back at a reported cost of $250 million. “Mockingjay — Part 2” is set to open on Nov. 20, 2015.