‘Hunger Games’ Box Office: How Hot Will It Blaze?

Film experts predict Lionsgate's aggressive marketing will boost dystopian drama to at least $125 million in its opening weekend.

Film experts have long expected the Girl on Fire to set the box office ablaze, but the question of just how hot “The Hunger Games” will burn when it opens Friday continues to be a moving target.

Early tracking numbers suggested the dystopian drama would earn about $70 million in its opening weekend — a figure only slightly higher than the $69.6 million opening of “Twilight.” But in the ensuing weeks, with increasing hype and positive reviews bolstering its outlook, those estimates have nearly doubled.

MTV News spoke with two box-office experts: Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com, and Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com, who both predicted the Jennifer Lawrence-starring flick will earn around $125 million its first three days.

“Since there have been no previous ‘Hunger Games’ films to measure the fanbase, it is hard to tell where it will end up this weekend,” Pandya explained. “It may go even higher, especially if fans see it more than once by the end of the weekend.”

But die-hards — those who’ve read and re-read Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel upon which the movie is based — won’t be the only dollar-drivers, thanks in large part to Lionsgate’s aggressive marketing strategy. “They knew from the beginning they can’t just cater to the fanbase,” Contrino explained. “It’s a good starting point, but you need to entice people who haven’t read the books.”

Pandya agreed: “Lionsgate has done a great job marketing to non-fans. I’m not part of the book readership, and the TV spots I’ve seen really created anticipation for me.”

Another factor working in the film’s favor — one which will likely help the series’ first installment best the initial “Twilight” outing — is its broader appeal.

“Guys are going to show up. The ‘Twilight’ films skew heavily female, and that’s what has stopped them from being even bigger than they are,” Contrino said. ” ‘The Hunger Games’ doesn’t have to overcome that obstacle.”

All of which is to say that “Hunger Games” is in no fear of not reaching the $100 million overall domestic goal Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer set as the benchmark for whether the sequel, “Catching Fire,” should be greenlit. So, mark your calendars for November 22, 2013, because Katniss’ victory is all but a foregone conclusion.

How well do you think “The Hunger Games” will do this weekend? Sound off in the comments below and tweet me @amymwilk with your thoughts and suggestions for future columns!

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