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'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire': 2D Box Office Record Truly Broken?

'Catching Fire' box office: To surpass IRON MAN 3 in North America? (image: Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire')

Dec. 1, '13, update: Thanksgiving was celebrated this past week in the United States. Although the American economy remains in a seemingly never-ending rut, Lionsgate has much to be thankful for, financially speaking: on the weekend of November 29-December 1, 2013, Francis Lawrence's $110-130 million-budgeted The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, added another $74.5 million from 4,163 North American locations according to studio estimates found at Boxofficemojo.com.

Even if Lionsgate's estimates are (once again) off by a couple of percentage points, that's a remarkable hold for a sequel. In fact, Catching Fire was down only 53 percent compared to its first weekend, which included $25+ million from Thursday night and Friday midnight screenings. And let's not forget that the Hunger Games sequel blew off some heavy-duty box office steam earlier on Thanksgiving week, collecting an estimated $35.6 million on Wednesday and Thursday.

For comparison's sake: From 2009-2012, three Twilight sequels, all of which starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, opened in mid-to-late November. Chris Weitz's New Moon plummeted 70 percent on its second weekend out, and so did Bill Condon's Breaking Dawn - Part 1. Condon's Breaking Dawn - Part 2 was down 69 percent. And in late March 2012, the Gary Ross-directed The Hunger Games was down 62 percent on its second weekend.

'Catching Fire': Fourth best second weekend ever? Biggest five-day Thanksgiving weekend ever?

Officially – and if studio estimates are on target – Catching Fire had the fourth best second weekend ever at the North American box office, trailing only:

  • Joss Whedon's The Avengers ($103.05 million), featuring an all-star cast that included Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Robert Downey Jr;
  • James Cameron's Avatar ($75.61 million), featuring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver;
  • Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight ($75.16 million), starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Aaron Eckhart.

Note: Both The Avengers and Avatar had the advantage of box-office-boosting 3D surcharges.

Now, once inflation is factored in, as it always should, Catching Fire is tenth on the list, also trailing:

  • Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco;
  • Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon's Shrek 2, featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Cameron Diaz, and Julie Andrews;
  • George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, with Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman;
  • Ron Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with Jim Carrey;
  • Gore Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, with Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Orlando Bloom.

Having scored $110.1 million from Wed.-Sun., Catching Fire has also officially broken the five-day Thanksgiving weekend record, easily surpassing the $82.4 million earned by Chris Columbus' Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone a dozen years ago. Minor detail: Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, the first Harry Potter movie raked in approximately $117 million in 2013 dollars. If inflation didn't exist, studio publicists and their media lackeys would have to invent it.

'Catching Fire' to become the biggest 2013 blockbuster?

What seemed unlikely upon first glance – sequels tend to have relatively steep drops on their second weekend – is now a strong possibility. As a result of its excellent hold, Catching Fire may not only surpass The Hunger Games' $408.01 million earned in the U.S. and Canada – but also become the biggest blockbuster of 2013, surpassing both Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud's Despicable Me 2, and Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man 3. The latter film, 2013's biggest hit to date, brought in $409.01 million earlier this year.

Catching Fire's current domestic cume is an estimated $296.5 million. Unless Lionsgate's estimates are way off target, the film will pass the $300 million milestone at the North American box office on Monday. Internationally, where Thanksgiving isn't a (box-office-boosting) holiday, Catching Fire has pulled in $276.5 million to date.

'Catching Fire' movie cast

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stars:

  • Jennifer Lawrence – Best Actress Oscar nominee for Debra Granik's Winter's Bone and Oscar winner for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, and in the near future to be seen with Bradley Cooper in Susanne Bier's Serena;
  • Josh Hutcherson – Julianne Moore and Annette Bening's difficult son and Mia Wasikowska's brother in Lisa Cholodenko's 2010 indie hit The Kids Are All Right, and, along with Dwayne Johnson and Vanessa Hudgens, one of the adventurers in Brad Peyton's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island;
  • Liam Hemsworth – the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth (Thor: The Dark World), Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger's co-star in The Expendables 2, and Miley Cyru's leading man in The Last Song.

The Catching Fire cast also features Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Doubt), Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada, The Lovely Bones), Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Messenger).

In addition to: Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Willow Shields (A Fall from Grace, currently in pre-production), Jena Malone (Sucker Punch), Elizabeth Banks (Man on a Ledge), Lynn Cohen (Munich), Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction), Toby Jones (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Nelson Ascencio, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Jack Quaid, Lenny Kravitz, Taylor St. Clair, and Jeffrey Wright.

Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Oblivion) and Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire) wrote the Catching Fire big-screen adaptation, from Suzanne Collins' book. The next two episodes in the four-film The Hunger Games movie trilogy, both directed by Francis Lawrence, are The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2.

Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair Catching Fire photo: Lionsgate Pictures.

Nov. 25

'Catching Fire' weekend box office: Record breaker with qualifiers – though a huge success all the same (image: Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire')

For the weekend of November 22-24, 2013, Lionsgate overestimated the domestic box office take of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by nearly 2 percent. Doesn't sound like much? What about $3 million? That figure can make a hell of a difference when we're talking box office records. In fact, it can be the difference between a movie breaking and not breaking a box office record.

All day Sunday heralded as the biggest 2D opening ever in the United States and Canada, the Francis Lawrence-directed Catching Fire actually opened below two movies: Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and The Dark Knight (2008). And when inflation is taken into account, as it always should, the The Hunger Games sequel falls behind a couple of other titles as well. Admittedly, Catching Fire still holds the record for the biggest domestic November opening ever, having surpassed Chris Weitz's 2009 fantasy The Twilight Saga: New Moon even adjusted for inflation. But there's a caveat. More on that below.

'Catching Fire' vs. Batman movies

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, Catching Fire opened with $158.07 million (instead of $161.1 million, as per Sunday estimates) from 4,163 sites according to weekend box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, and Marion Cotillard, The Dark Knight Rises opened with $160.88 million, while The Dark Knight, featuring Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Aaron Eckhart, took in $158.41 million on its first weekend out. Note: Unlike Catching Fire, neither of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies had the advantage of Thursday evening screenings.

Once inflation is factored in, Catching Fire also trails Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 (2007), starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco, and Gore Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), starring Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Orlando Bloom. In 2013 dollars, the third Spider-Man movie collected approximately $177 million, while the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie earned approximately $167 million. And let's not forget that neither of these movies (or The Dark Knight) had the advantage of extensive IMAX screenings, which, via ticket surcharges, boost box office revenues (despite selling fewer tickets). Or of Thursday evening shows.

If 3D movies are added to the mix, the top weekend at the North American box office belongs to Joss Whedon's The Avengers. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, and Robert Downey Jr., The Avengers earned $207.43 million on its first weekend out in May 2012.

'Catching Fire' vs. 'New Moon,' 'The Hunger Games'

Toplining Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, New Moon scored $142.83 million at 4,024 venues in late November 2009. Needless to say, Catching Fire far surpassed that figure. Now, adjusted for inflation the second installment in the Twilight franchise raked in approximately $151 million. Chances are that Catching Fire did sell more tickets than New Moon, though the current wider availability of IMAX shows and Catching Fire's Thursday night screenings make comparisons more than a bit iffy.

Also worth noting is that Catching Fire outgrossed two other Twilight movies opening in November: Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (2012). The former took in $138.12 million ($142 million in 2013 dollars), the latter $141.06 million (including Thursday night shows; about the same amount in 2013 dollars).

Catching Fire's Thursday night shows also make comparisons to the Gary Ross-directed The Hunger Games a bit iffy. The first movie based on Suzanne Collins' literary trilogy took in $152.53 million at 4,137 theaters in mid-March 2012. The sequel grossed an extra $5.54 million. Could Thursday shows be responsible for that difference? In all likelihood, if we ignore these Thursday screenings, Catching Fire opened only very, very slightly ahead of its predecessor.

Considering that it's a much better received movie and that it has a much broader fan base, Catching Fire will surely end up way ahead of fellow November opener New Moon. But will it surpass The Hunger Games' $408.01 million? Though not impossible, that seems less likely. After all, sequels tend to be much more frontloaded than “original” movies – e.g., Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight earned 36 percent of its total take on its first weekend vs. New Moon's 48 percent, Breaking Dawn - Part 1's 49 percent, and Breaking Dawn - Part 2's 48 percent.

'Catching Fire' vs. 'The Hunger Games' budget, international box office

Whereas The Hunger Games cost a reported $78 million (plus $43 million in marketing and distribution expenses), Catching Fire's production budget alone was reportedly $130 million. In other words, assuming that figure is accurate, once we add prints and advertising disbursements Catching Fire's final cost should total around $200 million.

At the international box office, the Hunger Games sequel surprisingly failed to surpass its domestic take – though it's unclear if China's weekend gross is included in the international total. For now, the score is an estimated $146.6 million internationally (including $8.2 million in Brazil last week) vs. the aforementioned $158.07 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Catching Fire's top international markets this weekend, when the film grossed $138.4, were the following: the U.K. and Ireland with $19.8 million, Germany with $12.8 million, Australia with $11.5 million, Russia with $10.8 million, Mexico with $10.7 million, and Spain with $5.6 million. Catching Fire has yet to open in France, Italy, and Japan.

'Catching Fire' movie cast

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stars the following:

  • Jennifer Lawrence – Best Actress Academy Award nominee for Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, Best Actress Academy Award winner for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, and to be seen with Bradley Cooper in Susanne Bier's upcoming Serena;
  • Josh Hutcherson – Annette Bening and Julianne Moore's difficult son and Mia Wasikowska's brother in Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right, and one of the adventurers alongside Dwayne Johnson and Vanessa Hudgens in Brad Peyton's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island;
  • Liam Hemsworth – the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth (Thor: The Dark World), Miley Cyru's leading man in The Last Song, and Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger's young co-star in The Expendables 2.

The Catching Fire cast also features Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Best Actor Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), and Oscar nominees Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones) and Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Messenger).

More: Jena Malone (Sucker Punch), Willow Shields (A Fall from Grace, currently in pre-production), Elizabeth Banks (Man on a Ledge), Lynn Cohen (Munich), Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction), Toby Jones (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Jack Quaid, Taylor St. Clair, Nelson Ascencio, Jeffrey Wright, and Lenny Kravitz.

Screenwriters Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Oblivion) and Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire) wrote the Catching Fire big-screen adaptation. The next two episodes in the four-film The Hunger Games movie trilogy, both with Francis Lawrence at the helm, are The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2.

Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence Catching Fire photo: Lionsgate Pictures.

Nov. 24

'Catching Fire' weekend box office: 'The Hunger Games' sequel poised for biggest domestic November debut ever? (image: Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire')

On Friday, November 22, 2013, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (slightly) surpassed the higher end of early North American box office predictions, pulling in an estimated $70.5 million (including $25.25 million from Thursday evening shows) from 4,163 sites as per Box Office Mojo. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson, the Francis Lawrence-directed The Hunger Games sequel seems poised to shatter the current November opening-weekend record held by The Twilight Saga: New Moon. But then again, comparisons between the two movies may not be exactly fair; more on that below.

Last week, some box office pundits (and, reportedly, Lionsgate Pictures as well) were expecting Catching Fire to open somewhere near Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man 3's $174.14 million (which had the advantage of 3D surcharges). At Box Office Mojo, Ray Subers predicted an opening around $167 million. In all likelihood, Catching Fire won't get too close to these figures; on the positive side, it'll certainly surpass unofficial weekend estimates released on Friday, which had the Hunger Games sequel collecting $140-$150 million in the U.S. and Canada. Now, the $150 million mark seems all but guaranteed; in fact, there's a not inconsiderable chance that Catching Fire may open north of $160 million. (Sunday update: According to studio estimates, Catching Fire opened with $161.12 million in North America. Monday update: Lionsgate overestimated Catching Fire's Sunday box office take.)

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

Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon brought in $142.83 million (including Thursday midnight only screenings) at 4,024 venues in late November 2009. Needless to say, Catching Fire will surpass that figure. Now, before you buy into the usual “record-breaking box office” hype take the following into account: a) adjusted for inflation, New Moon, the second installment in the Twilight franchise, scored approximately $151 million b) even if Catching Fire surpasses that figure, which is certainly a (strong) possibility, bear in mind that the Lionsgate release had the sizable advantage of Thursday evening shows.

You know, if studios want to keep bragging about record-shattering opening-weekend box office figures, one thing they could do is to keep making the (official) weekend longer. Don't be too surprised if in the not-too-distant future we start seeing movie-debut weekends that begin on Monday evening.

As for the Gary Ross-directed The Hunger Games, the first movie based on Suzanne Collins' literary trilogy scored $152.53 million (including midnight only shows) at 4,137 theaters in mid-March 2012. Unless Catching Fire's early Saturday box office estimates are off target (Nikki Finke has the film's take pegged at $50 million), the sequel will officially boast a bigger debut than its predecessor in North America. But again, we're comparing apples and potatoes here: remember Catching Fire's Thursday night screenings. (True, The Hunger Games was released during spring break, when lots of American students were free to attend early Friday shows. However, it seems that those unable to go to matinees yesterday went to evening shows instead.)

Another Saturday update: If Lionsgate's estimates are on target, Catching Fire had the biggest November opening ever, even taking inflation into account while disregarding Thursday evening ticket sales (which wouldn't amount to more than $9 million). We'll be posting a fully revised Catching Fire box office article on Monday, once Lionsgate releases official weekend box office actuals.

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. In other words, if that figure is right, once we add prints and advertising expenses Catching Fire likely cost around $200 million.

Weekend box office estimates come out on Sunday. Weekend box office actuals will be made available on Monday.

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

As mentioned above, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stars the following:

  • Jennifer Lawrence – Oscar-nominated for Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, to be seen with Bradley Cooper in Susanne Bier's Serena, and a Best Actress Academy Award winner for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook;
  • Josh Hutcherson – Annette Bening and Julianne Moore's bratty son in The Kids Are All Right, one of the adventurers in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island;
  • Liam Hemsworth – not only the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth (Thor: The Dark World), but also Miley Cyru's leading man in The Last Song and Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger's young bud in The Expendables 2.

Additionally, Catching Fire features Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Best Actor Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), and Oscar nominees Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Messenger) and Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones).

Plus: Jena Malone (Sucker Punch), Willow Shields (A Fall from Grace, in pre-production), Elizabeth Banks (Man on a Ledge), Lynn Cohen (Munich), Alan Ritchson, Amanda Plummer, Toby Jones, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Jack Quaid, Taylor St. Clair, Nelson Ascencio, Jeffrey Wright, and Lenny Kravitz.

Screenwriters Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Oblivion) and Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire) wrote the Catching Fire movie adaptation. The next two episodes in the four-film The Hunger Games movie trilogy are The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2.

Sam Claflin and Jennifer Lawrence Catching Fire photo: Lionsgate Pictures.

Nov. 23

Jennifer 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.)

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.

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 Cyru's 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 a.k.a. Jennifer Lawrence Catching Fire image: Lionsgate Pictures.

Nov. 22

'Catching Fire' movie box office: 'Midnight' shows nearly 30 percent ahead of 'The Hunger Games' (image: Jennifer Lawrence in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire')

Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring Best Actress Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson, raked in a remarkable $25.25 million from evening shows on Thursday, November 21, 2013, in North America (playing at 4,163 locations on Friday), according to estimates found at Boxofficemojo.com. That's 28 percent higher than the $19.74 million at 2,565 locations earned by its predecessor, Gary Ross' The Hunger Games; it's also one of the biggest domestic “midnight” debuts ever. (See more on that below. Scroll down to check out a video of Jennifer Lawrence yelling back at yelling photographers at the Catching Fire New York premiere.)

Now, in the paragraph above the word “midnight” is in quotes because Catching Fire had the (major) box office-boosting advantage of late Thursday evening shows, unlike most pre-2013 midnight releases. Thus, when we compare its “midnight” box office take to that of The Hunger Games, we're actually comparing apples and potatoes. It's that different.

Biggest midnight box office openings ever

Using various sources, I've compiled a list of the top midnight and/or Thursday evening (with asterisk) box office openings ever in the United States and Canada. In case anyone notices a missing title, please let me know. Figures not adjusted for inflation. Note: Four of the titles below were released in 3D.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 3D - $43.5 million (Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint; director David Yates).
  • The Dark Knight Rises - $30.6 million (Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard; director Christopher Nolan)
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 - $30.4 million* (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner; director Bill Condon).
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 - $30.3 million (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner; director Bill Condon).
  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $30.1 million (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard; director David Slade).
  • The Twilight Saga: New Moon - $26.3 million (Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner; director: Chris Weitz).
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - $25.25 million (Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson; director: Francis Lawrence)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - $24 million (Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint; director: David Yates).
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - $22.2 million (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint; director: David Yates).
  • Man of Steel 3D - $21 million* (Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe; director: Zack Snyder)
  • The Hunger Games - $19.7 million (Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson; director Gary Ross).
  • The Avengers 3D - $18.7 million (Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr.; director Joss Whedon).
  • The Dark Knight - $18.5 million (Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart; director: Christopher Nolan).
  • Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith - $16.5 million (Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen; director: George Lucas).
  • Iron Man 3 3D - $15.6 million* (Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce; director: Shane Black)

Internationally, Catching Fire has to date earned an estimated $32 million from 43 territories. As per Lionsgate, that's more than double what The Hunger Games earned during the same time frame in most markets.

Jennifer Lawrence loses it at 'Catching Fire' New York premiere

Jennifer Lawrence apparently lost her patience with photographers yelling unintelligible requests to the Catching Fire star at the film's New York premiere. By screaming back a few times, Lawrence provided them with a great photo-op. See below.

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

Besides Jennifer Lawrence (soon to be seen with Bradley Cooper in Serena), Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right), and Liam Hemsworth (whose co-stars range from Miley Cyrus in The Last Song to Sylvester Stallone 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: Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, Alan Ritchson, Toby Jones, Amanda Plummer, Lynn Cohen, Taylor St. Clair, Jack Quaid, Willow Shields, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Nelson Ascencio, Jeffrey Wright, and Lenny Kravitz.

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

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games: Catching Fire photo: Lionsgate Pictures.

Nov. 19

'Catching Fire' movie box office: Strong Brazil opening points to bigger international hit than 'The Hunger Games' (image: Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire')

Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, toplining Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson, debuted in Brazil last Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. A national holiday (“Proclamation of the Republic”), November 15 has proven to be a highly profitable “opening date” in Brazil; in 2012, Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 broke both single-day and opening-weekend records at the Brazilian box office. Now comes Catching Fire, which far surpassed the box office take of its predecessor.

Surely it's no coincidence that both the Hunger Games and Twilight franchises currently belong to the Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate Pictures combo. Or that both franchises have been/are being distributed in Brazil by Paris Filmes, possibly that country's biggest homegrown film distribution entity.

The second installment in the Hunger Games' four-movie trilogy (that's Hollywood for you), Catching Fire grossed an estimated $6.3 million from 962 screens in its first three days, a solid figure for the Brazilian market and about twice as much as the amount earned by Gary Ross' The Hunger Games on its debut weekend ($3.14 million at 636 locations). In all fairness, however, comparisons to the first movie are iffy. Not only was Catching Fire screening at about 50 percent more venues, but one must also take into account that The Hunger Games opened on a non-holiday Friday in March 2012. Having said that, The Hunger Games had one major advantage when it comes to box office grosses in U.S. dollars: a stronger Brazilian currency.

'Catching Fire' movie vs. 'The Hunger Games,' 'Breaking Dawn - Part 2' and other blockbusters

But wait: Unlike in the United States, where Hollywood studios and distributors announce (inflation-, 3D-, and IMAX-enhanced) box office figures – so new records can be broken with increasing regularity – in Brazil distributors also release ticket sales figures. According to Paris Filmes, Catching Fire brought 1 million Brazilians to the movies on its first weekend out vs. The Hunger Games' 481,000 tickets sold during the same period.

And here's another comparison: Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, the aforementioned Breaking Dawn - Part 2 sold on one day – Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 – an estimated 980,000 to 1 million tickets at 2,103 locations. As mentioned above, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 also holds the Brazilian record for the biggest opening weekend ever: 2.1 million tickets sold from Friday to Sunday in mid-November 2012; 3.1 million if Thursday, Nov. 15, is included.

Below are a few more opening weekend figures in Brazil:

  • Shane Black's Iron Man 3, featuring Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ben Kingsley, sold 1.8 million tickets;
  • Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, also starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, sold 1.72 million;
  • Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco, sold 1.71 million;
  • Joss Whedon's The Avengers, with Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., and Tom Hiddleston sold 1.68 million;
  • David Yate's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Ralph Fiennes, sold 1.56 million;
  • Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World, with Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston, sold 1.2 million.

According to Box Office Mojo, The Hunger Games cumed at $691.24 million at the worldwide box office. In North America, Gary Ross' dystopian adventure drama grossed $408.01 million (59 percent) vs. $283.23 million (41 percent) internationally. Don't be too surprised if these percentages are reversed for Catching Fire, which some predict could reach close to $1 billion worldwide.

This week, Catching Fire opens in more than 60 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, and much of Europe.

'Catching Fire' movie cast

Besides Best Actress Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right), and Liam Hemsworth (who, in a brief movie career, has already run the gamut from Miley Cyrus in The Last Song to Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables 2), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire features Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman), Best Actor Oscar 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).

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

Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Oblivion) received credit for the Catching Fire screenplay, based on Suzanne Collins' novel.

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie photo: Lionsgate Pictures.

Nov. 17

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' opens strongly in Brazil (image: Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in 'Catching Fire')

Francis Lawrence's dystopian adventure drama The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, opened in Brazil on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, the week before it debuts in North America and most other international markets. Why Brazil? Friday was a national holiday (“Proclamation of the Republic”) in that particular market – a highly profitable holiday, apparently, as can be attested by The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2's record-breaking figures last year. (More on that below.)

Results for the second installment in the Hunger Games' four-movie trilogy (hey, that's Hollywood) have been encouraging. Catching Fire grossed an estimated $2.4 million on Friday, a remarkable figure for the Brazilian market. Having said that, comparisons to Gary Ross' The Hunger Games' opening day are hardly fair. True, Catching Fire grossed (an estimated) three times as much as The Hunger Games, but a) the first movie opened on a non-holiday Friday in March 2012 b) currency fluctuations can radically alter a movie's box office take in U.S. dollars.

Unlike in the United States, where movie studios and distributors herald (inflation-, 3D-, and IMAX-enhanced) box office figures – so a new record can be broken every other weekend – in countries such as Brazil, distributors issue head counts, i.e., tickets sold. Catching Fire will undoubtedly outperform The Hunger Games in Brazil, but we'll only know for sure how much more successful it will be in relation to its predecessor once ticket sales figures are made available (likely on Sunday or early next week). For the record, The Hunger Games sold 481,000 tickets on its first weekend out in Brazil.

'The Hunger Games' 2012: Minor hit in Brazil

According Box Office Mojo, The Hunger Games grossed a relatively modest $10.15 million in Brazil – no. 26 on that country's 2012 box office chart. For comparisons sake: Last year's no. 1 movie at the Brazilian box office grossed $63.9 million (10.96 million tickets) – that's Joss Whedon's The Avengers, starring Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, et al. At no. 2, the final Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart pairing, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, collected $54.24 million (10.28 million tickets), followed by the animated Ice Age: Continental Drift, with $44.5 million (8.66 million tickets).

And here's another bit of data: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 holds the record for the biggest single-day opening ever in Brazil: an estimated 980,000 tickets sold on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.

Note: Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate Pictures are the North American distributors of the Hunger Games and Twilight franchises. In Brazil, the local distributor for both franchises is Paris Filmes.

'Catching Fire' movie cast

Besides Best Actress Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire features Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman), Best Actor Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Willow Shields, Amanda Plummer, Lynn Cohen, Alan Ritchson, Toby Jones, and Lenny Kravitz.

Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Oblivion) wrote the Catching Fire screenplay, based on Suzanne Collins' novel.

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson Catching Fire photo: Lionsgate Pictures.

Nov. 16

Box office movies this weekend: 'Thor: The Dark World' worldwide; 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' in Brazil; 'The Best Man Holiday' in the U.S. (image: Taye Diggs in 'The Best Man Holiday')

The big story at the global box office this weekend, November 15-17, 2013, is going to be once again Thor: The Dark World, which is expected to reach close to $450 million worldwide – more than two-thirds of that figure coming from outside North America. For comparison's sake, Kenneth Branagh's Thor 2011 ended its global run with $449.32 million.

The weekend's big international box office story is the debut of Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in Brazil, the week before it opens in North America and most other international markets. Why only Brazil? Friday was a national holiday (“Proclamation of the Republic”) – in other words, that particular market is enjoying a real three-day weekend. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire brings back Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, in addition to Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Jena Malone, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Willow Shields, Amanda Plummer, Lynn Cohen, Alan Ritchson, Toby Jones, and Lenny Kravitz.

Now, the big story at the North American (read: U.S.) box office pertains to neither of the fall's top worldwide releases. True, Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston, will almost surely top the American and Canadian box office, collecting anywhere between $35-$38 million, according to early estimates found at both Deadline.com and The Hollywood Reporter. But what's most impressive is that the Universal-distributed, relatively low-budget comedy The Best Man Holiday may end up grossing more than $30 million by Sunday evening. And without the assistance of 3D surcharges.

'The Best Man Holiday' surprises

For now, box office figures are sketchy. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, The Best Man Holiday could theoretically reach $34 million or whereabouts this weekend after collecting an estimated $13 million on Friday. In case that happens, Lee's dramatic comedy geared toward African-Americans and a sequel to his own 1999 film The Best Man would land uncomfortably close to the mighty Thor. Some other early estimates, however, have The Best Man Holiday opening below $30 million – a less impressive, but still pretty good debut for a movie budgeted at a reported $17 million (not including marketing and distribution expenses).

The original The Best Man, which has nothing in common with Gore Vidal's “scandalous” political play or Franklin J. Schaffner's 1964 movie starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson, eventually cumed at a solid (for a $9 million-budgeted film) $34.1 million in North America (approximately $54 million in 2013 dollars), after an opening-weekend gross of $9.03 million (about $14 million today).

The justification for the sequel 14 years later was the fact that cast members such as Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, and Terrence Howard have become bigger names in the United States, while the film has reportedly performed quite well on television and on DVD. Chances are, Universal Pictures is expecting more solid domestic ancillary revenues from The Best Man Holiday. (Saturday update: According to Universal, The Best Man Holiday took in an estimated $10.7 million on Friday, or quite a bit less than early Friday estimates indicated. Chances are Malcolm D. Lee's dramatic comedy will end up with about $28-$30 million by Sunday evening.)

No international audience for 'The Best Man'

Needless to say, The Best Man was a total bomb overseas, earning less than $500,000 as per Box Office Mojo. The Best Man Holiday will likely follow the same route, much like the Tyler Perry comedies, which are remarkably popular – chiefly on their first weekend – among certain audience segments in the U.S., but that have absolutely no international following.

Another example: Think Like a Man, also featuring Regina Hall, and which way overperformed in the United States back in April 2012 (the film's North American gross was $91.54 million), but failed to find an audience – or even distribution – in most of the world, eventually reaching less than $5 million internationally.

'The Best Man Holiday' cast

Besides Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, and Terrence Howard, The Best Man Holiday brings back The Best Man's Morris Chestnut, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Monica Calhoun, Harold Perrineau, and Melissa De Sousa – in addition to newcomer Eddie Cibrian (who, back in 1999, was featured instead in But I'm a Cheerleader).

Official domestic box office estimates for Friday come out on Saturday morning; domestic and international weekend box office estimates will be available on Sunday morning. Domestic weekend actuals will be released on Monday.

Taye Diggs The Best Man Holiday photo: Universal Pictures.

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2 Comments to 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire': 2D Box Office Record Truly Broken?

  1. Michelle Clark

    Good writing!

  2. SamaLuccaPucca

    SHe was joking…. you can tell how playful she was being