The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

March 26, 2012

'Hunger Games' battles to $155M opening weekend

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "The Hunger Games" has filled fan appetites with a $155 million opening weekend that puts it near the top of the domestic record book.

The huge haul marks the third-best debut ever in terms of revenue, behind the $169.2 million opening for last year's "Harry Potter" finale and the $158.4 million opening of 2008's "The Dark Knight."

"Harry Potter" and "Batman" were well-established franchises. "The Hunger Games" set a revenue record for a non-sequel, taking in more than twice what the first "Twilight" movie did with its $69.6 million opening weekend.

"This is the birth of a franchise. To launch in this fashion is mindboggling," said David Spitz, head of distribution at Lionsgate, which now also owns the "Twilight" franchise after its purchase of Summit Entertainment.

While it's already a blockbuster on its North American home turf, "The Hunger Games" had a much slower start overseas. The film took in a modest $59.3 million in 67 markets, including Great Britain, Germany, France, Russia and Australia.

The "Harry Potter" finale took in a record $314 million overseas in its debut last summer, and half a dozen other films have opened with more than $200 million outside the United States.

Even "John Carter," a dud domestically, managed to take in more than "The Hunger Games" overseas, launching with $70.6 million in 55 international markets two weekends ago.

Still, "The Hunger Games" amassed a worldwide total of $214.3 million in just a few days.

Domestically, it also was by far the biggest start for a film opening outside the busy summer and holiday seasons. According to Sunday studio estimates, "The Hunger Games" came in nearly $40 million ahead of the previous March record-holder, 2010's "Alice in Wonderland" at $116.1 million.

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