‘Hunger Games’ Open Sets $153 Million Lions Gate Record

“The Hunger Games,” the action thriller from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF), collected $153 million in weekend sales in the U.S. and Canada, a record opening for the company and for the month of March.

The film, about teenagers battling to the death on live television, opened in 4,137 theaters, Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The sales marked the third-biggest weekend ever, behind 2011’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”

The movie crushed even the most optimistic expectations. Entering the weekend, analysts estimated “The Hunger Games” would earn $125 million to $135 million, having raised earlier forecasts as it gained buzz. Based on the first day’s receipts, Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com’s box-office division, on March 24 projected $140 million for the weekend.

“This is a great opening weekend for the film,” said Paul Sweeney, an analyst for Bloomberg Industries, in an e-mail. “It continues the trend of very strong box-office results so far this year.”

A marketing blitz associated with the movie included a collector’s edition of People magazine, an eight-city mall tour this month by the stars, and ticket giveaways on websites from Access Hollywood to Yahoo.com. At least 6,000 weekend shows sold out in advance, according to ticket sellers Fandango and MovieTickets.com. More than 450 showings of “Hunger Games” are already sold out for this week, MovieTickets.com said.

Lions Gate, based in Vancouver and run from Santa Monica, California, rose 4.5 percent to $15.18 at the close in New York. The stock has advanced 82 percent this year.

Suzanne Collins’s Novel

The picture is based on Suzanne Collins’s 2008 novel of the same name set in a post-apocalyptic North America. There are more than 11 million copies of the book in print, according to its publisher, Scholastic Corp. (SCHL)

The film features Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, a girl from an impoverished region who volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the competition. “The Hunger Games” cost about $80 million to make, according to Lions Gate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer.

Prior to the weekend opening, the independent film and TV studio’s top-performing domestic release was “Fahrenheit 9/11” from Michael Moore, which collected $119.1 million in the U.S. and Canada during its entire run in theaters.

Disney’s ‘John Carter’

Among the weekend’s returning films, “21 Jump Street,” a spoof of the 1980s TV series that led the U.S. and Canadian box office last weekend, fell to second with $20.5 million in ticket sales for Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures, Hollywood.com said.

“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” the No. 1 film for the two weekends before that, fell to third place with $13.2 million in receipts for Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures.

Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s big-budget film “John Carter” collected $5.1 million in its third weekend. Disney announced last week that the film would lose an estimated $200 million and lead to a second-quarter operating loss of as much as $120 million at the company’s film unit.

“Act of Valor,” from Relativity Media LLC, had $2 million in sales for fifth place.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 88 percent to $203.8 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. For the year-to-date, box-office sales have risen 19 percent to $2.41 billion while attendance is up 22 percent.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
1 THE HUNGER GAMES    $152.5   4,137  $36,871   --   $152.5   1
2 21 JUMP STREET        20.5   3,121    6,559   -44    70.2   2
3 DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX  13.2   3,677    3,585   -42   177.4   4
4 JOHN CARTER            5.1   3,212    1,580   -63    62.4   3
5 ACT OF VALOR           2.0   2,219      920   -45    65.9   5
6 A THOUSAND WORDS       1.95  1,787    1,091   -46    14.9   3
7 PROJECT X              1.93  2,065      935   -52    51.7   4
8 OCTOBER BABY           1.7     390    4,352   --      1.7   1
9 SAFE HOUSE             1.4   1,330    1,055   -48   122.6   7
10 JOURNEY 2             1.36  1,340    1,013   -43    97.1   7
11 CASA DE MI PADRE      1.2     475    2,488   -48    4.0    2
12 THIS MEANS WAR        1.0   1,188      830   -54    52.3   6

Top 12 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $203.8        $108.6        +88


Year-to-date Revenue:

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $2,414.0      $2,024.4      +19

Year-to-date Attendance:        22%

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net; Dan Hart in Washington at dahart@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net.

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