Weekend Box Office: THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE Claims November Record with $161.1 Million

     November 24, 2013


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire surprised no one by setting a new record for a November opening.  Earning an estimated $161.1 million from 4,136 locations, the high-profile sequel easily topped the previous record of $142.8 million, set by The Twilight Saga: New Moon in 2009.  Perhaps more significantly, Catching Fire also managed to place fourth on the list of all-time domestic debuts, putting it ahead of both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

Here is what the top ten looks like, as of this morning:

Title Opening
1. Marvel’s The Avengers $207.4
2. Iron Man 3 $174.1
3. Harry Potter Deathly Hallows 2 $169.1
4. Catching Fire $161.1
5. The Dark Knight Rises $160.8
6. The Dark Knight $158.4
7. The Hunger Games $152.5
8. Spider-Man 3 $151.1
9. Twilight Saga: New Moon $142.8
10. Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 2 $141

Analysis and this weekend’s top ten after the jump.

the-hunger-games-catching-fire-poster-finalI should begin by pointing out the obvious: right now, less than $1 million separates The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Dark Knight Rises on the list of all-time domestic openings. By the time actual earnings are reported on Monday, that estimate for Catching Fire could change. That means there is still a chance for Batman to catch Katniss. Of course, there is also a chance that Catching Fire will come out higher than $161.1 million but, for now, that is the number we’re dealing with.

If you’ve been following the progress of Catching Fire (and it’s been kind of hard to avoid), you know that it was always expected to be a monster. It was taken for granted that the sequel would open higher than The Hunger Games – between $160 and $170 million, by most calculations. In the days leading up to its release there was even some talk that Catching Fire would hit $175 million, but that turned out to be overly-optimistic. But for a film without the ticket-price advantage of 3D effects, $161 million is an incredible achievement – and no less so because we all saw it coming.

The overwhelming success of The Hunger Games (it’s opening ranked as the third-highest ever in March 2012) caught a lot of people by surprise. An untested franchise, The Hunger Games managed opened higher than time-tested favorites like Spider-Man and Harry Potter despite opening in the blockbuster-averse month of March. The film ended up earning over $690 million worldwide, including $408 million in the US (just under what Iron Man 3 took in this summer). In cases where a first-time franchise proves so popular, its sequel typically winds up with higher on opening weekend. New Moon, for example, more than doubled the opening of Twilight.

hunger-games-catching-fire-josh-hutcherson-jennifer-lawrenceBecause The Hunger Games started off so enormous, its sequel was never going to double its opening – at this point, a $300 million opening is still unimaginable. The addition of 3D effects might have been enough to put Catching Fire above Iron Man 3 in terms of domestic openings, but it seems silly to speculate at this point. Where the sequel is expected to gain significantly over its predecessor is on the international market.


Back in 2012, The Hunger Games took in $283 million overseas, or approximately 41% of its global total. That’s a big number, but giant franchises typically collect more than half of their global earnings from international markets –  earlier this year, Iron Man 3 took in 66% of its worldwide total outside of North America. Now that Lionsgate has established The Hunger Games as a global franchise, international numbers are already impressive. Catching Fire has already collected a total of $146.6 million from 63 territories. That gives the sequel a total of $307.7 million, or 45% higher than the original film’s worldwide debut.

Clearly, the opening of Catching Fire cast an enormous shadow over the rest of the top ten. Overall earnings reached $228 million (among the most lucrative frames of this year), but 70% of that total was claimed by just one film. Here is how the rest of the top ten looked:

 Title Weekend Total
1.  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire $161,100,000 $161.1
2.  Thor: The Dark World $14,117,000 $167.8
3.  The Best Man Holiday $12,500,000 $50.3
4.  Delivery Man $8,215,000 $8.2
5.  Free Birds $5,300,000 $48.5
6.  Last Vegas $4,400,000 $53.9
7.  Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa $3,450,000 $95.4
8.  Gravity $3,405,000 $245.5
9.  12 Years a Slave $2,800,000 $29.3
10.  Dallas Buyers Club $2,769,000 $6.4


The only new title brave enough to take on Katniss was Delivery Man. The Disney comedy starring Vince Vaughn was clearly hoping to counter-program this week’s box office behemoth, but came up short. Delivery Man was originally expected to open in the $15 million range but, instead, took in just $8.2 million from 3,306 locations. That’s less than half of what Vaughn’s last film, The Internship, opened to this summer, and few people will remember that as the comedians finest hour.

The good news for Disney is that their live-action failure is likely to be forgotten by Wednesday. That’s when the studio will open its latest animated feature Frozen nationwide. At just one theatre this weekend, Frozen took in an estimated $238,000, which bodes well for the extra-long holiday week ahead.


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