The second installment of the popular 'Hunger Games' franchise collects the fourth-largest debut in Hollywood history.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire did just that at the box office, scoring the fourth-highest debut in Hollywood history.
The sequel to last year's hit collected $161.1 million since it opened Thursday night, according to studio estimates from Rentrak.
The debut nudged last year's The Dark Knight Rises, which opened to $160.9 million, down a notch to No. 5 among all-time debuts.
The opening met projections of most analysts, who expected the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence to eclipse the original's bow of $152.5 million. About $12.6 million of the debut came on IMAX screens.
Catching Fire scored another $146 million in 63 countries, giving the film $307 million worldwide, putting it on pace to smash the original film's haul of $691 million worldwide.
While some analysts predicted an opening of $170 million, Catching Fire's debut is the highest opening in November, which is "nothing to sneeze at," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com. "The franchise is going strong."
The movie earned an A grade from audiences, according to pollsters CinemaScore. And Catching Fire earned a thumbs-up from 89% of the nation's critics, says Rottentomatoes.com. Those reactions could help propel the movie through the holidays and past the original film's domestic haul of $408 million.
Box Office Mojo's Ray Subers says that distributor Lionsgate has found a replacement for its other massive teen hit, and may have a property to challenge Warner Bros.' boy wizard. He says the franchise is "on track to become as big as Twilight or Harry Potter."
"In the 20 months since The Hunger Games reached theaters, plenty of people have discovered the movie at home, and millions of additional copies of the books have been sold," he says. "Also, Jennifer Lawrence's star has risen, thanks in part to a best actress win at the Oscars last year" for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook.
The comic-book adaptation Thor: The Dark World was second for the weekend with $14.1 million, followed by the comedy Best Man Holiday with $12.5 million.
Delivery Man, the new comedy from Vince Vaughn, took third with $8.2 million, well below analysts' expectations of $13 million.
The animated comedy Free Birds rounded out the top five with $5.3 million.
Final figures are expected Monday.
Top five box-office openings of all-time
1. Marvel's The Avengers (5/4/12) / $207.4 million
2. Iron Man 3 (5/3/13) / $174.1 million
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (7/15/11) / $169.2 million
4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (11/22/13) / $161.1 million *
5. The Dark Knight Rises (7/20/12) / $160.9 million
Source: Box Office Mojo