'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Ablaze at Box Office (Update 1)

By Jessica Herndon

LOS ANGELES -- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a scorching hit at the box office.

Lionsgate ( LGF) has released early numbers on what's expected to be one of the biggest November openings ever. Catching Fire has grossed $70.5 million domestically and $64 million internationally, bringing its total to $135 million, the studio reported Saturday.

Numbers were from Friday's opening day, but include some scattered preview shows on Thursday night. The sequel gained $25.3 million from Thursday screenings.

Catching Fire is expected to bump two-week champ Thor: The Dark World out of the No. 1 slot.

Totals for Catching Fire are expected to reach $150 million domestically over the weekend, though some reports estimated a $170 million opener.

"This is a testament to the power of the books, the way the first film resonated across the world with audiences and Jennifer Lawrence's continued success and popularity, particularly in this role," box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Rentrak said of the Catching Fire success. "And the movie has gotten great reviews, which means it will get great word of mouth."

The impressive opening of Catching Fire is expected to mark the eighth-highest domestic opening to date. The Hunger Games, with $67.3 million its opening night in 2012, holds the title of the sixth-highest opening weekend with $152.5 million. The Avengers sits at No. 1 with $207.4 million.

According to poll data, the popularity of Catching Fire is crossing over to all moviegoers, as compared to the female-heavy audience of Hunger Games. About 12% more male moviegoers saw Catching Fire and the audience was split equally between those older and younger than 25.

The smoldering Catching Fire ticket sales are in line with what the studio was expecting, Dergarabedian said.

"They are going to get a wonderful second weekend with Thanksgiving," he added. "It is so important to have Thanksgiving as your second weekend. People have time off work and go out and catch up on their movie-going. It's a brilliant position to be in."
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