'The Hunger Games' Devours $19.7 Million Midnight Snack

[caption id="attachment_116800" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Lionsgate"]Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games"[/caption]

It's been clear for awhile that "The Hunger Games" is going to be big — the only question is, just how big. "The Dark Knight" big? "Twilight" big? "Harry Potter" big?

Well, now the first preliminary box office numbers are in for the midnight release of "The Hunger Games" last night and we have our answer: It might not quite match those other films, but it's still going to be pretty darn big.

And with $19.7 million in one night, it's only going to get bigger.

Of course, some folks might be just a little disappointed with that tally, as according to Variety, early reports placed the estimated take at $25 million, with at least a few analysts suggesting the midnight box office could earn upwards of $30 million instead.

But even though the $19.7 million being reported by Hollywood.com falls well short of the amounts taken in by "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" ($43.5 million) and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" ($30.5 million), it's still enough to set the record for the most money ever made from a midnight release by a non-sequel.

And with positive word of mouth expected to drive older viewers to the theater as well, "The Hunger Games" could follow in the footsteps of 2008's "The Dark Knight," which took in a then-record $18.5 million in its pre-release before blowing up to become the second highest grossing film of all-time.

Any way you look at it, one thing's for sure: $19.7 million for one night's work is a nice payday for anybody. Looks like the odds were ever in Katniss Everdeen's favor after all.

"The Hunger Games" Premiere Photos

(Originally published on March 23, 2012, at 10:24 a.m. ET)