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Ravenous moviegoers propelled Lionsgate’s sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to a $307.7 million global opening, easily outpacing the first film’s $211.8 million debut in March 2012.
In North America, Catching Fire scored the top November opening of all time with $161.1 million, slaying the record set by fellow YA film adaptation The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($142.8) and marking the fourth-biggest opening of all time after The Avengers ($207.4 million), Iron Man 3 ($174.1 million) and the final Harry Potter film ($169.2 million). Catching Fire enjoys the distinction of toppling The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9 million).
Catching Fire is already a much bigger player overseas than the first film, launching to $146.6 million from 65 markets. (The tally includes grosses from Brazil, where the film opened last weekend.) It’s doing double the business of Hunger Games overall, and even more in key markets, such as Russia, where it was up 64 percent.
Producer Nina Jacobson said Lionsgate has been much more aggressive internationally in marketing the film, culminating with a whirlwind premiere tour last week. “They really shifted the orientation to a global orientation. I’m incredibly thrilled with the domestic numbers, but I think we are all really excited to see the international plan paying off,” she said.
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, particularly offshore.
The sequel, earning an A CinemaScore, is reaching a broader audience than Hunger Games did, with males making up 12 percent more of the domestic audience, or 41 percent. Catching Fire also played evenly in terms of age, with 50 percent under the age of 25 and 50 percent over.
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 screenplay, adapting it from the Suzanne Collins best-seller.
The weekend’s only other new nationwide entry was Delivery Man, starring Vince Vaughn. Placing No. 4, the $22 million DreamWorks dramedy took in $8.2 million, marking the worst nationwide debut of the actor’s career for a film debuting in excess of 1,000 theaters (excluding cameos). It’s the third Vaughn movie to struggle after The Internship and The Watch.
Delivery Man‘s modest budget minimizes the financial risk for DreamWorks and partner Disney, which had hoped the film would serve as potent counterprogramming to Catching Fire, a risky movie. Moviegoers liked the film — about a sperm donor who fathers 500 children — better than critics, giving it a B+ CinemaScore. The film quickly transformed into a date movie for older adults (81 percent).
Overseas, Delivery Man took in $1.2 million as it launched in Russia.
Elsewhere at the box office, Disney’s decision to open Thanksgiving animated entry Frozen at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles before the family film rolls out everywhere on Thanksgiving eve paid off. Frozen grossed $237,606, by far the best location average of the weekend.
Disney enjoyed another strong weekend with Thor: The Dark World despite the onslaught of Catching Fire. The Marvel Studios’ 3D tentpole grossed $14.1 million domestically to place No. 2 and $24.8 million overseas for a global total of $548.8 million.
Malcolm D. Lee‘s African-American comedy The Best Man Holiday placed No. 3 in its second weekend, grossing $12.5 million for a hearty domestic total of $50.4 million.
Rounding out the top five was Relativity’s animated family film Free Birds. The family pic grossed $5.3 million for a total North American gross of $48.6 million.
Among awards contenders, Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years a Slave placed No. 9, grossing $2.8 million from 1,474 theaters for an impressive domestic total of $29.4 million. Focus Features’ Dallas Buyers Club cracked the top 10 chart for the first time, placing No. 10 with $2.7 million from 666 theaters for a total of $6.4 million in its fourth weekend.
Paul Greengrass‘ Captain Phillips sailed past the $100 million mark in its seventh weekend, grossing $1.8 million domestically to come in No. 12. The Sony drama, boasting a North American total of $100.7 million, also is doing strong business overseas, where it took in another $6.8 million for an international total of $76.3 million and global haul of $177 million.
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