NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Katniss Everdeen might have won the Hunger Games, but she's not the only one due a windfall thanks to the franchise's next installment, Catching Fire. Lions Gate (LGF), Scholastic (SCHL), Regal Entertainment Group (RGC), Cinemark Holdings (CNK) and Comcast (CMCSA) will likely achieve a District 1 level of wealth through the film's cinematic run.
Lions Gate has the odds ever in its favor, after it bought the book rights back in 2009, backing the little movie that could during its 2012 release. Now that the franchise is a must-see blockbuster, Forbes estimates Catching Fire could top $250 million in its opening weekend, though Reuters cites a more conservative $170 million. On Thursday night, the sequel reportedly generated $25.25 million in box office sales in the U.S., 28% higher than the original during the same timeframe.
The original Hunger Games, released March last year, grossed $691 million worldwide, the 14th highest-grossing North American release in history. Before its release, the $80-million project was expected to generate between $125 million to $135 million for its opening weekend, according to Bloomberg, and those estimates generously factored in social media hype. In its debut 48 hours, the film pulled in $155 million in North America alone.
The final two films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, the material of which is derived from the third book in the series, will be released in November 2014 and 2015, respectively.The studio has also taken on the rights to a separate dystopian young-adult franchise, Divergent. The first installment in the Veronica Roth series is slated for a March 2014 release. Next, Regal Entertainment and Cinemark will likely reap the rewards of more viewers in their seats. Regal has a total 576 theaters with a combined 7,342 screens across North America, while Cinemark has 506 theaters and 5,794 screens in the U.S. and Latin America. Comcast-owned Fandango is already pulling in the big bucks. On Thursday, the online movie ticket seller said 85% of its advance ticket sales were for Catching Fire. Finally, the film will likely spike renewed interest in its source material, The Hunger Games trilogy, authored by Suzanne Collins. According to Scholastic, the publisher which owns the rights to the series, more than 65 million print and digital copies are in circulation in the U.S. alone. Since the original's publication in 2008, the trilogy has sat comfortably on The New York Times bestseller list for 260 consecutive weeks. By late afternoon, Lions Gate had rallied 2.8% to $33.46, Regal inched 0.4% higher to $19.60, Cinemark gained 0.4% to $33.21, Comcast surged 4.4% to $49.52, and Scholastic added 1.3% to $31.56.
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