Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s debut weekend at the North American box office has proved one of the year’s hardest to predict. A spectacular $25.25m on Thursday night suggested that the film would exceed the $170m at the top end of market expectations but surprisingly quiet Friday matinees – not the most reliable indicator – pointed to it falling $20m short of the $160m at the bottom end of the analysts’ predictions. As it turned out, the action sequel gained some additional momentum Friday night to close the day on $70.5m and it weekend’s takings should now fall somewhere close to the half way point between the matinees’ projection and the lower market forecasts. This would leave it in the same ballpark of the original’s $152.5m weekend launch notwithstanding stronger reviews and Fandango’s highest pre-sales of the year so far with a 92% market share.
A further twist in the saga is not entirely out of the question with its excellent ‘A’ CinemaScore suggesting powerful word of mouth going into Saturday and Sunday. But Catching Fire does not have the premium boost that goes with 3D screenings to propel the film in the same way as Iron Man 3 when it achieved $174m for this year’s highest weekend debut so far.
The sequel has a new director with Francis Lawrence, best known for I Am Legend, taking over from Gary Ross but co-stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson both return.