Hunger Games 03
Credit: Murray Close

The Games have officially begun!

Last night, The Hunger Games grossed a truly staggering $19.7 million from midnight showings across the country — the highest midnight total ever for a non-sequel, and the seventh highest midnight total ever (behind three Harry Potters and three Twilights). After only a few hours, it's clear that the film is already a smash, and it's almost certainly headed for a debut well above the $100 million mark.

Sure, the overnight figure can't compare to the $43.5 million that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 conjured up at midnight shows last year (on its way to $169.3 million — the highest opening weekend of all time), or the $30.3 million that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 found at midnight on its way to $138.1 million, but it's likely that The Hunger Games, which doesn't have the same amount of built-in sequel anticipation, won't face the same weekend frontloadedness as those titles. Saturday and Sunday grosses should prove quite sturdy. Back in 2008, The Dark Knight earned $18.5 million at midnight, but still managed a stunning $158 million debut — the second highest debut of all time — proving that not every blockbuster makes a full 25 percent of its opening weekend gross at midnight.

Based on this $19.7 million figure, The Hunger Games should take in at least $50 million on Friday and could reach as high as $150 million over the full weekend frame — although that estimation is very bullish. My fellow box office prognosticating colleague John Young is predicting a more sensible $130 million weekend. We'll have to wait and see see how high it climbs, so stay tuned to for box office updates throughout the weekend.

Either way, it appears that the odds are very much in Lionsgate's favor!

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