Hunger Games
Credit: 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

The Hunger Games
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Gary Ross