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Weekend Box Office: Audiences Eat Up Hunger Games in Record Fashion

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By Chris Kavan - 03/25/12 at 09:01 PM CT

The question going into this weekend wasn't whether The Hunger Games would do good, it was how good will it do? The answer - about as good as it can get. Early estimate put the film at anywhere from $130 - $160 million and it wound up close to the higher estimates.

At $155 million, The Hunger games now sits at the third best opening of all time behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($169.2 million) and The Dark Knight ($158.4 million). It now claims the highest gross for any non-sequel film and easily topped Alice in Wonderland ($116.1 million) to become the highest-grossing March film of all time. It also opened ahead of every Twilight film to date.

It was also a good time to be Lionsgate, who took a near-$80 million gamble (and untold but certainly high marketing cost) on a popular but still untested franchise. They were rewarded with their best opening - beating out the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.2 million) in just two days. Another encouraging sign that the film will have a long shelf life is that the drop from Friday to Saturday was only 25% - much better than the front-loaded Harry Potter and Twilight films, which tend to drop much more after the initial fan frenzy is over.

Audiences also awarded the film an A cinema score. It did attract a slightly more female audience (61%) and also managed to bring in a slightly older audience (56% over the age of 25) - no small feat for a novel aimed a young adults. All signs point to The Hunger Games having a monster run and while there are plenty of movies that may try to topple it, I don't see any major threats until The Avenger's hits on May 2, 2012.

Last week's top film, 21 Jump Street, fell to second with $21.3 million and dropping a respectable 41.3%. Channing Tatum and Johan Hill have teamed up to a $71 million total after two weeks - not bad for a film that cost just $42 million. Sequel talk is already underway.

The Lorax landed in third with $13.1 million (down 42.5%) and now sits at $177.3 million. While it has fallen a bit behind Despicable Me at the same point, the film should wind up north of $200 million by the time it wraps things up.

News isn't so rosy for Disney's big-budget disaster John Carter. Dropping a massive 63%, after its big drop last week, the film took in just $5 million in its third week and has only brought in $62.3 million (less than half of what The Hunger Games brought in its opening weekend). Disney has already said they expect a $200 million write-off, though they may be lucky if that's all they claim. Those expecting a return to Mars anytime soon better not hold their breath.

Rounding out the top five, Act of Valor remained in the fifth-place spot with $2 million. The uber-patriotic navy SEALs have brought in nearly $66 million since opening five weeks ago.

In limited release in only 390 theaters, the abortion drama October Baby still managed to crack the top ten, winding up in 8th place with $1.7 million (managing to bump last week's limited release winner, Will Ferrell's Spanish-language Casa de mi Padre out of the top 10).

Next week's two films that will try to dethrone The Hunger Games juggernaut will be Wrath of the Titans and the light-hearted Snow White tale Mirror, Mirror. I don't think either film has enough of a draw to topple The Hunger Games, but we'll see come Friday what their chances are going to be.

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