Box Office: 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Nabs $25.3 Million Thursday Night

UPDATED: The sequel -- returning Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen -- is opening around the world this weekend.

Living up to the hype, Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire devoured an estimated $25.3 million in Thursday night grosses as it began rolling out in North America.

The sequel surpassed by 28 percent the $19.7 million earned by the first Hunger Games on its first night of release in spring 2012. That film went on to gross $152.5 in its domestic debut, and many are betting on Catching Fire to take in considerably more.

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Earlier this year, Disney and Marvel Studios' Iron Man 3 raked in $15.6 million in Thursday night runs on its way to a $174.1 million debut.

Catching Fire's stellar Thursday performance represents one of the best numbers of all time. The top midnight earner remains Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($43.5 million).

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, drawing rave reviews, should be boosted by its run in Imax theaters, both internationally and in North America. The sequel has already made an estimated $32 million overseas. Most major markets posted opening grosses of more than double that of the first Hunger Games, according to Lionsgate.

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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. By Sunday alone, the movie could cross $300 million in global ticket sales.

The sequel also accounts for 92 percent of all weekend ticket sales on Fandango, making it the site's top advance-ticket seller of the year, beating Iron Man 3.

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.