Early estimates on the box office haul of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire indicate the film earned $152M-$160M in the U.S. over the weekend to set a November record and land as the 8th highest opening of all-time.
Inside the numbers: Global audiences bring the weekend tally for the Lions Gate (LGF) film to well over $200M with many key markets still on tap. IMAX (IMAX) revenue totals aren't out yet, but anecdotal reports suggest a high percentage of filmgoers went the IMAX route. Males got caught in the Catching Fire buzz, jumping to 41% of the audience component from 29% for the original HG. CinemaScore gave the film a coveted A rating for tracking appeal which shows the juggernaut could have sturdy legs right into streaming.
What to watch: The brisk opening brings a sigh of relief across the industry. Shares of LGF and IMAX broke higher Friday off the early buzz - but could show even more friskiness. Theater operators (CKEC, CNK, RGC, MCS, RDI) needed the reassurance that the Instagram-teenager set can still deliver high traffic numbers, while Hollywood studios have been in the crossfires of analysts for their reliance on make-or-break tent-pole strategies. Disney (DIS) with the biggest tentpole of all in its back pocket with the Star Wars franchise will take a few cues. Get cracking J.J. Abrams.