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Ticket sales sate Hunger Games

By LOS ANGELES TIMES

This article was published March 30, 2012 at 2:26 a.m.

jennifer-lawrence-and-josh-hutcherson-star-in-the-lionsgate-film-the-hunger-games-the-film-made-more-than-152-million-and-came-in-at-no-1-at-last-weekends-box-office

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson star in the Lionsgate film The Hunger Games. The film made more than $152 million and came in at No. 1 at last weekend’s box office.

— Lionsgate hit a bull’s-eye last weekend with The Hunger Games, as the story of expert archer Katniss Everdeen and her battle for survival debuted to a record-breaking $152 million at the box office.

The Jennifer Lawrence starring adaptation of the best-selling book posted the third-highest domestic debut of all time - not accounting for ticket price inflation - behind only the $169.2 million opening for the final Harry Potter installment and the $158.4 million launch of The Dark Knight. That means The Hunger Games’ estimated opening-weekend gross was more than that of any other nonsequel.

As a result of the astronomically high weekend ticket sales, receipts were up 76 percent compared with the same three-day period last year. The astonishing weekend performance caps a surprisingly strong first quarter at the box office this year, during which movie theater attendance has grown 22 percent compared with the first three months in 2011.

The Hunger Games is already Lionsgate’s highest grossing film ever and is poised to ultimately deliver more than $300 million in profits to the company’s bottom line from ticket sales, DVDs, television and licensed products, several analysts predicted Sunday. With three sequels to come, the series has the potential to produce more than $1 billion in profits.

The Hunger Games’ money began rolling in after midnight March 22, when it raked in nearly $20 million on its first night in theaters. Moviegoers responded positively to the film about teenagers in a fight to the death, assigning it an average grade of A,according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Roughly 61 percent of the opening weekend audience for The Hunger Games were women. By comparison, the most recent Twilight film attracted an 80 percent female contingent in November, indicating part of the success of the new film had to do with its appeal to both sexes. Adults and teenagers showed up for the PG-13 picture, with 56 percent of the audience older than 25.

The movie played well across the country, with the most receipts coming in New York, Boston and Salt Lake City, where one theater had the highest gross in the nation. On Friday and Saturday, Megaplex Theatre in South Jordan, Utah, collected $276,000 in sales. The location is part of a six-theater circuit that has drummed up interest in the movie through special film-themed events, including a re-enactment of the Hunger Games themselves. Like a number of other theaters nationwide, Megaplex also devoted a handful of its screens to playing the teen epic continuously last weekend.

Overseas, ticket sales for The Hunger Games were healthy but not as spectacular as in the United States. Playing in 67 foreign markets, the movie collected $59.3 million, roughly in line with the first installments of other blockbuster series such as Twilight and Harry Potter. The movie performed best in English-speaking markets such as the United Kingdom and Australia, where author Suzanne Collins’ books have been more widely read.

Catching Fire, the followup to The Hunger Games, is scheduled to hit theaters in November 2013.

MovieStyle, Pages 30 on 03/30/2012

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