LOS ANGELES — 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.
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.
The Hunger Games slid into the No. 3 spot on the domestic revenue chart ahead of “Spider-Man 3,” which opened with $151.1 million in 2007.
Factoring in today’s higher tickets prices, The Hunger Games sold fewer tickets over opening weekend than Spider-Man 3, though.
Fans camped out for the first screenings of The Hunger Games, which began just after midnight Friday. Many fans showed up dressed as favourite characters from the story.
“That type of behaviour puts it on the level of the Star Treks and Star Wars,” Spitz said. “I was so excited to see how everyone was responding to the material and how ecstatic they were to be a part of it.”
With a broader fan base than the Twilight franchise, The Hunger Games pulled in bigger crowds than the top-grossing installment of that series. The Twilight Saga: New Moon leads that franchise with a $142.8 million opening weekend in 2009.
Women and girls have made up as much as 80 per cent of the audience for the Twilight flicks. Though it features a female lead, The Hunger Games drew more balanced crowds, with girls and women accounting for 61 per cent of audiences, according to distributor Lionsgate.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released today.
1. The Hunger Games, $155 million.
2. 21 Jump Street, $21.3 million ($5.3 million international).
3. Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax, $13.1 million ($5.5 million international).
4. John Carter, $5 million ($22.2 million international).
5. Act of Valor, $2.1 million.
6. Project X, $2 million.
7. A Thousand Words, $1.9 million.
8. October Baby, $1.7 million.
9. Safe House, $1.39 million ($2.3 million international).
10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, $1.37 million.