‘Hunger Games’ Sets Lions Gate Record on Sales of $155 Million

The film, about teenagers battling to the death on live television, opened in 4,137 theaters,Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. The sales total marked the third-biggest weekend ever.

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 the movie 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.

“There’s not another movie opening for a month that will compete with it,” Dergarabedian said. “This is a movie that will play for a long time. This was a perfect release date.”

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.

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.

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.

Positive anticipation on the film, along with the January acquisition of Summit Entertainment, has lifted Lions Gate shares by 75 percent this year. They fell 0.1 percent to $14.53 on March 23 in New York.

Prior to the weekend opening, the Vancouver-based 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.

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