Box Office: J-La fuels ‘Catching Fire’ to massive $161 million opening

It didn’t come close to the all-time opening weekend set by “The Avengers” (as some had predicted, but Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” still set a November record earning $161.1 million over its first three days.

“Catching Fire” surpassed the previous Nov. record holder, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” which found $142.8 million in 2009.  It’s now also the fourth biggest debut of all time surpassing “The Dark Knight Rises” ($160.8 million) and a bit behind “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2.”  With little competition until “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” opens on Dec. 13, “Catching Fire” has an excellent shot of matching the original “Hunger Games'” $408 million domestic gross. Internationally, the Francis Lawrence directed sequel should have no problem earning more than first film’s $691.2 million final tally.

Returning in the second spot was “Thor: The Dark World.” Marvel’s second solo flick starring the God of Thunder earned another $14.1 million for $167.8 million to date. “The Dark World” will surpass the original “Thor’s” $181 million come sometime next weekend.

Dropping to no. 3 was “The Best Man Holiday” with another $12.5 million for $50.3 million in just 10 days.  “Holiday” reportedly cost only $17 million and at this rate may sneak into profitability in its theatrical frame alone. Even if it doesn’t, “Holiday” is a big enough hit that Universal is already looking for a third installment in the franchise.

DreamWorks Studios’ rough 2013 continued with the disappointing debut of “Delivery Man.” The Vince Vaughn dramedy took in just $8.2 million.  With a budget of $26 million, “Delivery Man” would have to over perform overseas to turn a profit. Clearly, Vince Vaughn’s days of being able to open a movie are long gone.

“Last Vegas” continued it’s impressive run in fifth with another $4.4 million and $53.9 million so far.  The AARP comedy should easily surpass $60 million after all is said and done.  It’s no wonder that CBS Films is already floating around the idea of a possible sequel.

In limited release, “Philomena” debuted with a good, but not great $133,700 in just four theaters or a $33,425 average. That’s weaker than last year’s debuts for “Silver Lining Playbook’s” in 16 theaters or “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s” opening in 27 theaters. The Weinstein Company will hope for stronger results when it expands to 500 theaters on Wednesday

Notably, “Captain Phillips” crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday and “Frozen” earned $238,000 from just one theater in Hollywood in a special engagement at the El Captain in Hollywood.

The Thanksgiving holiday will include nationwide releases or expansions of “Black Nativity,” “Frozen,” “Homefront” and “The Book Thief.”  “Old Boy” and the previously mentioned “Philomena” will be in 500 theaters each.

Box office actuals are released on Monday.