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'Catching Fire' scorches with $161.1 million opening

  • Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, left, and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a scene from 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.' (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Murray Close)

NEW YORK — Moviegoers satiated their appetite for the "Hunger Games" franchise by making the sequel "Catching Fire" one of the year's biggest hits.

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" opened with $161.1 million at the domestic weekend box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It became the biggest November debut ever, as well as Lionsgate's most lucrative opening.

'Hunger Games: Catching Fire'

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The result fell short of some expectations and failed to dethrone the year's biggest box-office opening, "Iron Man 3" with $174 million. But the film opened massively worldwide, taking in a total of $307.7 million.

The marketplace largely ceded the weekend to "Catching Fire." The only other new wide release was Disney's Vince Vaughn comedy "Delivery Man," which sputtered to an $8.2 million opening.

The box-office performance for "Catching Fire" establishes "Hunger Games," starring Jennifer Lawrence as the archer heroine of Suzanne Collins' young adult series, as among the elite franchises in movies. The budget nearly doubled from the original and Francis Lawrence took over directing duties from Gary Ross. "Catching Fire" received better reviews and drew a broader audience.

"When the first film was released, there was this idea that it was going to appeal largely to young girls," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "But over time, it's skewing back toward male audiences. There's actually a lot of action, there's violence in the movie. It's crossing over to a much broader base."

The domestic opening for "Catching Fire" is the fourth best ever, following "The Avengers ($207 million), "Iron Man 3" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II" ($169 million).

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