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Box office update: 'The Hunger Games' scores best opening day ever for non-sequel with $68.3 mil

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Hunger Games
Murray Close

When Katniss woke up, the other side of the bed was cold covered with money. The dystopian action film The Hunger Games posted the fifth-best opening day ever with a staggering $68.3 million (including $19.7 million from midnight showings).

That’s by far the best opening day ever for a non-sequel. In fact, the next non-sequel in the opening-day record book sits all the way down in 18th place — 2010’s Alice in Wonderland with $40.8 million. The Hunger Games has started off stronger than such blockbusters as The Dark Knight, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1. However, the four films it fell short of are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 ($91.1 million) and the three Twilight sequels.

The PG-13 film, starring Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville), scored a solid “A” rating from CinemaScore audiences. The movie was evenly split between those under age 25 (who gave the film an “A+” grade) and those 25 years old and up (who were slightly less enthusiastic with an “A-” grade). Women made up 61 percent of the audience. By comparison, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 drew a crowd that was 80 percent female, so it’s clear that the more action-heavy The Hunger Games is doing a better job at attracting men.

Where does The Hunger Games go from here? I initially predicted a weekend tally of $130 million, but the movie now seems headed for at least $140 million. It will easily top Alice in Wonderland‘s $116.1 million weekend to land the biggest opening ever for a non-sequel. But the real target is The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which represents the vampire series’ best debut so far with $142.8 million. In just one day, The Hunger Games has already nearly equaled what the first Twilight movie earned in an entire weekend ($69.6 million). However, if Katniss can muster a more impressive opening weekend than all of the Twilight entries — well, that’d make for one stunning entrance.

As for the rest of the box office, last week’s winner 21 Jump Street declined 53 percent for $6.3 million on Friday. It should finish the weekend with about $20 million, pushing its cumulative tally to just under $70 million. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax also dropped 53 percent to earn $3.2 million, and is on pace for a $13 million weekend. The animated fable has so far collected $167.4 million, but will soon be overtaken by The Hunger Games as 2012’s top grosser.

John Carter took in $1.4 million, falling even more this Friday (66 percent) than last Friday (60 percent). Disney’s $250 million sci-fi epic has made $58.7 million domestically to date, and any hope of reaching $100 million seems extinguished. The teen-party flick Project X rounded out the top five with $625,000 on Friday. Not far behind was the pro-life drama October Baby, which debuted to $605,000 at 390 theaters.

Check back here on Sunday for the complete box office report.

1. The Hunger Games — $68.3 mil

2. 21 Jump Street — $6.3 mil

3. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax — $3.2 mil

4. John Carter — $1.4 mil

5. Project X — $0.6 mil

6. October Baby — $0.6 mil

Box office preview: The Hunger Games is ready to fight its way into the records book