Lionsgate is over a decade old, but up until this weekend its biggest hits were Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" which made $119.1 million in 2004 and "The Expendables" which found $103 million almost two years ago. That will all change over just three days. The company's faith in a new franchise was rewarded Friday when "The Hunger Games" grossed a staggering $68.2 million in one day including $19.7 million in midnight screenings. The $80 million budgeted action adventure is looking at $138-140 million for the weekend which would easily make it the largest March opening of all time and in the top five or six of all-time depending on the final gross.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2's" $169.1 million debut last summer currently holds the top spot and likely won't be challenged until "The Dark Knight Rises" hits theaters in July. Currently, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1" hold the fourth and fifth slots with $142.8 million and $138.1 million respectively. Even with a substantial Saturday or Sunday drop off, "Hunger Games" is expected to top "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's" $135.6 million gross in sixth. In any event, with the "Dark Knight," "The Avengers," "Prometheus," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "The Amazing Spider-Man," the return of James Bond in "Skyfall" and "Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2" all still to come, the success of "Hunger Games" foreshadows a banner year for Hollywood after a disappointing 2011.
Among other releases, last week's champ "21 Jump Street" weathered the "Hunger Games" storm as well as could be expected finding another $6.2 million on Friday for an incredible $56 million in just eight days. The Channting Tatum and Jonah Hill comedy should easily cross $65 million by Sunday and a final tally over $100 million is easily in reach.
"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" is currently the top grossing film of the year and grossed another $3.2 million Friday for $167.4 million to date.
Disney's financial disaster "John Carter" fell to fourth with another $1.5 million and $58.6 million to date. The company announced earlier this week it expects to write off $200 million on Andrew Stanton's fantasy epic.
Most affected by the "Hunger Games" is the teen comedy "Project X." The raunchy party flick grossed just $625,000 on Friday for fifth place and $50.4 million to date.
Look for continuing box office updates all weekend long on HitFix.
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