Box-Office Preview: Can 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Bite Off $175 Million Domestic Debut?

11:31 AM PST 11/21/2013 by Pamela McClintock

The sequel, opening in theaters around the globe this weekend, returns Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen; Vince Vaughn dramedy "Delivery Man" braves the fray, hoping to serve as counterprogramming.

Lionsgate looks to have a very merry holiday season as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire rolls out across the world this weekend, where it could cross $300 million in global ticket sales by Sunday. 

In North America, the sequel has a shot at debuting to $175 million, marking the No. 2 opening of all time after The Avengers ($207.4 million). However, anything over $155 million would be a stellar start. Catching Fire will be playing in 4,162 theaters domestically.

The Hunger Games, released in March 2012, debuted to $152.5 million -- the sixth-best showing of all time -- transforming Suzanne Collins' dystopian YA book series into an instant film franchise for Lionsgate and producers Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik.

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Overseas -- where it is expected to do far bigger business than the first film -- Catching Fire opens in 65 markets, including China. Major territories where it isn't debuting immediately include France, Italy and Japan. The movie should be boosted by its run in Imax theaters, both internationally and in North America.

In 2012, Hunger Games topped out at $408 million domestically and $283.2 million internationally for a global total of $691.2 million; Catching Fire is expected to do substantially more.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, the sequel returns Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth in the lead roles. Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin and Jena Malone also star.

Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn wrote the adapted script.

The only other new nationwide release this weekend is DreamWorks and Disney's Vince Vaughn adult dramedy Delivery Man, about a sperm donor who finds out he has fathered more than 500 children.

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DreamWorks, which spent a relatively modest $22 million to make the movie, is hoping that Delivery Man serves as counterprogramming to Catching Fire, although negative reviews could hurt the film's prospects.

Delivery Man is pacing to open in the $10 million to $15 million range.

In New York and Los Angeles, older adults looking to steer clear of Catching Fire may opt to see Stephen Frears' critically acclaimed Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. The Weinstein Co. is opening the British drama in four theaters.

Like Philomena, Catching Fire has also earned rave reviews.

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