Katniss Everdeen has triumphed over many foes, but beating "The Twilight Saga" may be her greatest victory yet.
The $158 million gathered by "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" over the weekend was enough to take the $142.8 million November opening record from "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," 'though it wasn't enough to catch a certain Caped Crusader. Lionsgate's initial estimate put "Catching Fire" a smidge "The Dark Knight Rises," but Gotham's hero held onto the 2D opening record with last year's $160.9 million summertime kickoff.
"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" previously held the November opening record, thanks to the $142.8 million it collected in 2009. The $161.1 million gathered by "Catching Fire" over the weekend was not only enough to best "New Moon." If estimates hold, it will qualify as the biggest opening ever for a movie not available in 3D, at just a quarter million more than the $160.9 million of "The Dark Knight Rises."
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" sits at #6 on the all time openings list, behind "Marvel's The Avengers" ($207.4 million), "Iron Man 3" ($174 million) and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" ($169 million), "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Dark Knight" ($158 million). The $152.5 million debut of last year's franchise kickoff, "The Hunger Games," is now #7. "New Moon" is #9, after "Spider-Man 3."
Suzanne Collins' Young Adult trilogy, set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world where teenagers must battle each other to the death, had sold over 26 million copies before the first film was released. Stephen King and "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer both praised the series.
"The Hunger Games" made over $691 million last year, $408 million of it domestically, teaming up with "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises," "Skyfall" and the final "Twilight" entry (among other hits) to cement 2012's status as the biggest year at the box office ever. Since the film was released, "The Hunger Games" grabbed four MTV Movie Awards and Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook."
The audience for "The Hunger Games" was 71 percent female, but the marketing campaign and countless aftermarket viewings contributed to a much more even split for "Catching Fire." 41 percent of the moviegoers who came out over the weekend for the sequel were male this time. Lionsgate reported "Catching Fire" drew a large amount of people over 25, in addition to the already-expected people under that age. More people came out in places like Germany and Great Britain than before, contributing to an additional $146.6 million from overseas markets.
The 89 percent Rotten Tomatoes score earned by "Catching Fire" (all of those "Empire Strikes Back" comparisons certainly didn't hurt) was nearly triple the "rotten" 35 percent critical average of "Delivery Man," the Vince Vaughn comedy the San Francisco Chronicle called an "infertile array of cliches." Whether its comedic premise is scientifically possible may be a moot point now, given its lowly $8.2 million debut.
The arrival of "Catching Fire" meant a steep decline for "Thor: The Dark World," which was #2 over the weekend with $14.1 million. The "Thor" sequel has earned $548.8 million around the world. "The Best Man Holiday" was #3 with $12.5 million for a two-week total of $50.3 million. Considering the $34 million domestic total of "The Best Man" and the sequel's $17 million budget, "The Best Man Holiday" is a big success for Universal and Spike Lee's cousin, writer/director Malcolm D. Lee. "Free Birds" rounded out the Top 5 with $5.3 million.
Speaking of animated kid flicks, "Frozen" got started in just one theater, Disney's El Capitan in Hollywood, where it made $238,000 (roughly 3600 other locations will join El Capitan on Wednesday). On the Oscar-bait front, "Philomena" opened in four locations with $134,000. "Dallas Buyers Club" expanded to over 660 locations for a domestic total of $6.4 million thus far. "12 Years a Slave" made another $2.8 million.