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Jennifer Lawrence CATCHING FIRE Weekend Box Office: To Surpass NEW MOON, THE HUNGER GAMES?

Jennifer Lawrence Catching FireJennifer Lawrence 'Catching Fire' weekend box office: Surpassing 'Twilight: New Moon' for biggest domestic November opening ever? (image: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire')

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, the Francis Lawrence-directed The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is expected to collect anywhere between $63-$70 million (according to Nikki Finke) and $67.5 million (according to Deadline.com) at 4,163 North American locations on Friday, November 22, 2013. That figure includes an estimated $25.25 million from Thursday evening shows, as found at Box Office Mojo. (Saturday update: Catching Fire opened with an estimated $70.5 million. See also: "'Catching Fire' Weekend Box Office: Poised to Surpass 'New Moon,' 'The Hunger Games'?")

Early, unofficial weekend estimates have the second installment in the Hunger Games movie franchise grossing anywhere between $140-$150 million in the U.S. and Canada by Sunday evening. Some early prognosticators had Catching Fire soaring much higher, up to Iron Man 3 heights ($174.14 million, with the advantage of 3D surcharges). Now, the Big Box Office Questions:

  • Will Catching Fire break the November box office record that currently belongs to The Twilight Saga: New Moon?
  • Will Catching Fire surpass the opening weekend box office take of the first The Hunger Games movie?

Domestic box office: 'Catching Fire' vs. 'New Moon,' 'The Hunger Games'

Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner collected $142.83 million (including Thursday midnight only screenings) at 4,024 venues in late November 2009. There's a very good chance that Catching Fire will surpass that figure. Now, before you buy into the usual "box office record-breaker" hype: a) Catching Fire had the advantage of Thursday evening shows and b) adjusted for inflation, New Moon took in approximately $151 million.

And that leads us to The Hunger Games, which debuted with $152.53 million (including midnight only screenings) at 4,137 theaters in mid-March 2012. If early Friday estimates for Catching Fire are on target – in the $63-$70 million range – barring a relatively major Saturday surge and solid Sunday hold, the sequel will fail to pass the $150 million mark by Sunday evening. Note: The Hunger Games had one advantage over Catching Fire, namely that it was released during spring break, when many students throughout the U.S. were free to attend early Friday shows.

If – and that's a big if at this stage – Catching Fire doesn't surpass the domestic opening of its predecessor, Lionsgate Pictures will likely be disappointed however excellent the actual box office figures. After all, sequels are supposed to outperform the original movies – not to mention the fact that whereas The Hunger Games cost a reported $78 million (plus $43 million in marketing and distribution costs), Catching Fire's production budget alone was a reported $130 million.

Now, having said that, Lionsgate undeniably has a gigantic hit in its hands, not only in North America but also internationally, where Catching Fire is far surpassing the initial box office take of The Hunger Games. (See also: "'Catching Fire' Box Office: 1 Million Tickets Sold But 'Breaking Dawn Part 2' Record Safe in Brazil.")

Official Friday estimates come out on Saturday. Weekend box office estimates will be released on Sunday. Weekend box office actuals come out on Monday.

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth topline 'Catching Fire' movie cast

Besides Jennifer Lawrence (soon to be seen with Bradley Cooper in Serena and a Best Actress Oscar winner for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook), Josh Hutcherson (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore's son in The Kids Are All Right), and Liam Hemsworth (Miley Cyrus' leading man in The Last Song; Sylvester Stallone's young bud in The Expendables 2), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire features Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman), Best Actor Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), two-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Messenger), and Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones).

In addition to the following: Jena Malone, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Alan Ritchson, Amanda Plummer, Toby Jones, Lynn Cohen, Jack Quaid, Taylor St. Clair, Nelson Ascencio, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Jeffrey Wright, and Lenny Kravitz.

Screenwriters Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Oblivion) and Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire) were credited for the Catching Fire adaptation. The film is based on Suzanne Collins' bestselling novel.

Katniss Everdeen aka Jennifer Lawrence Catching Fire image: Lionsgate Pictures.

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