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'Catching Fire' scorches with $161.1 million opening

  • This image released by Lionsgate shows 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)

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.

'Hunger Games: Catching Fire'

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"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).

Record keeping, though, has become more complicated in recent years at the box office. Higher-priced 3-D or IMAX screenings can boost revenue, as can early screenings. "Catching Fire," which earned 8 percent of its gross from IMAX showings, counted $25 million from Thursday night screenings among its weekend total.

The original "Hunger Games" earned $152.5 million in its opening weekend in March 2012, but didn't debut until midnight screenings Thursday.


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