New York - Mockingjay Part 1 didn't catch fire like the previous installments of The Hunger Games, but it still had the biggest opening of the year with $123m at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Lionsgate's Mockingjay opened well below the $158m debut of last year's Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the $153m opening of the 2012 original. But even with a $30-million-plus slide in the franchise, Mockingjay far surpassed the previous top weekend of the year: the $100m debut of Transformers: Age of Extinction.
The result made for some unusual ironies. The biggest opening of the year (and by a wide margin) was seen by some as a disappointment. After initial box office receipts of Mockingjay rolled in Friday suggested a weekend take below expectations, Lions Gate Entertainment's stock dipped 5%.
But the decision to split the final book in Suzanne Collins' dystopian trilogy into two films was clearly lucrative for Lionsgate. Mockingjay did even better overseas, where it made $152m over the weekend, accounting altogether for a $275m global opening.
"It's the biggest opening of the year, so it really illustrates the strength of the franchise," said David Spitz, head of distribution for Lionsgate, noting the North American opening was the 15th best ever.
Spitz declined to answer questions about Wall Street's reaction to the opening, or what the effect may have been of splitting the third book in two.
"It speaks for itself," Spitz said of the result.
Dividing the book pushed much of the big drama of Mockingjay to the second film, scheduled for release in November 2015. On the same November weekend in 2010, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 — which similarly split the series' last book into two — opened almost identically with $125m. A year later, the second Deathly Hallows film debuted bigger than all previous Harry Potter films with $169m.
"A little perspective is in order here," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office tracker Rentrak. He called the Mockingjay results "still an astonishing feat".
"I'm not worried about this franchise," Dergarabedian said.
The release calendar made way for Mockingjay, as no other new wide releases hit theaters. In its third week of release, the Disney animated adventure "Big Hero 6" moved into second place with $20.1m. Christopher Nolan's space epic Interstellar came in third with $15.1m, also in its third week.
Last week's top film, the long-in-coming sequel Dumb and Dumber To, slid considerably. The Universal comedy dropped to fourth place with $13.8m.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak: (Where available, the latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.)
1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 $123 million ($152 million international).
2. Big Hero 6, $20.1 million ($7 million international).
3. Interstellar, $15.1 million ($70 million international).
4. Dumb and Dumber To, $13.8 million ($6.5 million international).
5. Gone Girl, $2.8 million ($2.4 million international).
6. Beyond the Lights, $2.6 million.
7. St. Vincent, $2.4 million.
8. Fury, $1.9 million ($12.4 million international).
9. Birdman, $1.9 million.
10. The Theory of Everything, $1.5 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Rentrak:1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, $152 million.
2. Interstellar, $70 million.
3. Fury, $12.4 million.
4. Rise of the Legend, $11.9 million.
5. Penguins of Madagascar, $8.7 million.
6. Big Hero 6, $7 million.
7. Dumb and Dumber To, $6.5 million.
8. The Imitation Game, $3.3 million.
9. Gone Girl, $2.4 million.
10. Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2, $2.3 million.
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