Hunger Games Catching Fire
Credit: Murray Close
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On its first Friday in theaters, Lionsgate’s hotly anticipated sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire pulled in $70.5 million, a gross that includes $25.3 million that the film earned during Thursday night engagements beginning at 8 p.m.

Catching Fire was projected to open substantially higher than the original Hunger Games, which debuted with $152.5 million in March 2012, but it actually appears headed for a finish in the exact same range, perhaps earning around $150 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Though Catching Fire will likely score the best November opening of all time, ahead of The Twilight Saga: New Moon‘s $142.9 million bow, it will need great holds on Saturday and Sunday to take down Iron Man 3‘s $174.1 million opening (which benefitted from a boost from 3-D ticket sales) as the best of 2013, though it’s still a possibility.

Not that it matters all that much. Lionsgate spent $130 million on the well-reviewed film, and audiences issued Catching Fire a rare “A” CinemaScore grade. With the holidays ahead (and kids out of school and parents off from work), word-of-mouth should still carry the film into the box office stratosphere. Internationally, Catching Fire is already doubling The Hunger Games‘ performance around the world. It’s earned $64 million over its first two days in theaters thus far.

Everything else at the box office looks like crumbs compared to the behemoth Hunger Games entry. Thor: The Dark World hammered up another $4 million, and may take in about $15 million for the weekend. The Best Man Holiday finished close behind with $3.8 million. The breakout comedy, which has already gotten a sequel order from Universal, should gross about $13.5 million for a $51 million total after ten days.

Disney’s attempt to counter-program against Catching Fire with the Vince Vaughn comedy Delivery Man didn’t yield great results. The film delivered only $2.8 million on its first day, setting it up for a weekend of about $7.5 million. It’s a good thing it cost only $22 million to produce. The Mouse House fared better with Frozen, which opened to a scintillating $66,498 from just one theater, the El Capitan in Los Angeles.

Last Vegas rounded out the Top 5 with a $1.3 million gross, which pushed it past the $50 million mark. The comedy, which stars Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Robert DeNiro, may take in $5 million over the weekend.

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – $70.5 million

2. Thor: The Dark World – $4.0 million

3. The Best Man Holiday – $3.8 million

4. Delivery Man – $2.8 million

5. Last Vegas – $1.3 million

Check back to EW tomorrow for the full box office report.

The Hunger Games
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