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Hunger Games Beats All Box Office Expectations

03/25/2012 07:51 AM ET

The Hunger Games Box Office sales beat the most optimistic expectations in its debut weekend, grossing an estimated $155 million domestically  and setting several records. The Hunger Games movie opened bigger in box office sales than any Lionsgate film ever to open in the period between January and April. It is the biggest non-seque and third-biggest opening ever.

The PG-13 movie is about a dystopian future in which the government of the North American nation of Panem punishes its population for a long-ago rebellion by forcing children — a girl and a boy — from each of its dozen districts to fight to the death in an annual, nationally televised spectacle.

The only films to gross more than “The Hunger Games” in their opening weekend are “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ and “The Dark Knight.”

“Hunger Games” was the only major film to open this weekend. Last week’s No. 1 movie, Sony’s “21 Jump Street,” fell to No. 2 in America, taking a respectable $21.3 million. That’s a 41 percent drop from last week. Universal’s 4-week-old “The Lorax” is No. 3, with a $13.1 million weekend take.

Overall — and largely on the shoulders of “The Hunger Games” — the weekend box office was up a remarkable 75 percent compared to the same weekend in 2011.

Lionsgate did not announce its pre-release expectation, though outside box-office watchers predicted the movie would exceed $120 million. The movie, based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young adult novel, cost about $100 million to make — $80 million after tax incentives.

The studio declined to get into the specifics of its pre-release expectations Sunday morning, but acknowledged that the $155 million opening was surprising.

“We all knew it was going to be a very successful weekend,” David Spitz, Lionsgate’s head of distribution, told TheWrap Sunday morning. “It was just an incredible achievement.”

Its midnight showing was the biggest ever for a non-sequel: $19.7 million. In all, it took $68.25 million on Friday and $51 million on Saturday. Lionsgate estimates the movie will gross $36 million on Sunday. It did $10.6 million on IMAX screens alone. That averages $40,000 per IMAX screen — a record for an IMAX digital release. The previous high was $6.4 million for “Thor” in 2011.

It more than doubled the opening weekend take of the first “Twilight” movie, which grossed $69.6 million in 2008, and bested “Spider-Man,” which opened to $114.8 million in 2002.

The Hunger Games Box Office sales are off to a very good start.

Source: Hunger Games Box Office

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