Box Office Monster 'Hunger Games' Likely Headed for $350 Mil Domestic Run

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson

Josh Hutcherson, who plays District 12 tribute Peeta, told THR about one of the toughest scenes to film: "I had to lie still in a riverbed for an hour and a half while they did camouflage makeup and not move a muscle or it would mess it up when they shot. My arms were falling asleep. It was really painful."

Some box office observers believe the Lionsgate movie could even approach $400 million; the film's foreign prospects aren't as bright.

Lionsgate's The Hunger Games successfully scored one of the best openings of all time at the North American box office, but the hunt is far from over -- now comes the question of the film's playability.

Fan-driven movies, including Harry Potter and Twilight, usually have huge opening weekends and then fall off more quickly than other tentpoles. Only one Twilight film has ever crossed $300 million domestically, while only two Potter pics have. The final Potter film grossed just north of $381 million, while Sorcerer's Stone cumed $317 million. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse grossed $300.5 million.

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Yet bullish box office observers believe that Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins' best-selling dystopian young adult novel, could gross between $350 million and $400 million domestically based on its strength across all demos, including families, and particularly among tweens and teens, who are huge repeat moviegoers. (Also, director Gary Ross' films, from Seabiscuit to Pleasantville, have always enjoyed a generous multiple.)

Hunger Games opened to a record-shattering $155 million at the domestic box office over the weekend, the third best debut of all time behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 and The Dark Knight, which cumed $533.3 million domestically.

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At the very least, they project that Hunger Games will cross $300 million, putting the movie ahead of any title in the Twilight franchise (top Twilight earner was New Moon, which cumed $296.6 million domestically).

Save for Iron Man 2, which topped out at $623.9 million globally, every title on the top 10 list of biggest openings went on to gross north of $700 million worldwide. Hunger Games isn't certain of hitting that mark based on its solid, but far from spectacular, international opening of $59.3 million from 67 markets.

Hunger Games came in slightly ahead of the first Twilight in terms of its international opening, according to Lionsgate. That film topped out at $199 million worldwide. Hunger Games saw its strongest numbers in English-speaking markets, including Australia ($9.7 mililon) and the U.K. ($7.5 million). Hunger Games may not reach $200 million internationally.

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The overall box office might of Hunger Games is a milestone for Lionsgate, which has never had a tentpole franchise. The independent studio -- which is presently merging with Summit Entertainment, home of the Twilight series -- spent $80 million to make Hunger Games after rebates.

"Based on the trajectory of the weekend, we are going to have an unbelievable hold," said Lionsgate executive president of distribution David Spitz. "This film is going to play and play."

Hunger Games is assured of being a profit generator for Lionsgate, which contends it kept marketing costs under $50 million. And the company, which plans on making three more Hunger Games films, covered a large share of the budget by selling off foreign rights.