Los Angeles - The Hunger Games, a sci-fi action film about a teenage girl fighting to survive a life-and-death game show in a dystopian world, broke records on Sunday to become the first blockbuster movie of 2012.
The movie took in $155m in ticket sales over the weekend, making it the biggest weekend non-sequel movie opening ever, according to figures released by box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
It beat the previous record holder, the Tim Burton directed Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp, which pulled in $116.1m in 2010.
The Lionsgate picture is also the third biggest movie opening ever, after last year's final movie of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, ($169m) and the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight ($158m), according to figures released by Box Office Mojo.
Set in Panem, a fictional land born of the ashes of a ruined North America, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence as 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who is forced to fight for her life in a Roman circus-style televised blood sport known as The Hunger Games.
The movie received positive reviews from critics - the website Rottentomatoes.com, which has no mercy on mediocre movies, gave it an "86 Percent Fresh" rating based on critic reviews, and a 95% audience approval rating.
The Hunger Games is based on the thriller for young adults of the same name by US novelist Suzanne Collins, part of a trilogy that has sold 30 million copies worldwide, the latest teen publishing phenomenon in the wake of the Twilight saga.
The movie easily beat all four Twilight movies - the biggest opening for that series was 2009's Twilight: New Moon which raked in $141m.
The movie's haul exceeded even the highest expectation of most analysts.
"The birth of a franchise," proclaimed veteran industry analyst Paul Degerabedian on the website Hollywood.com.
Teen fans of the 2008 novel pushed movie ticket sales into record territory, said Gitesh Pandya of Boxofficeguru.
"A massive built-in audience has been hungry for this movie," Pandya told USA Today.
The post-apocalyptic movie had already made $19.7m in midnight screenings alone, seventh place in the midnight screening record books.
Even though the figure was far behind the $43.5m midnight record set by Harry Potter's Deathly Hallows - Part 2, the amount is "a huge number for an untested property", said Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations.
"To come out of a gate that strong is huge," said Bock.
"It's all Suzanne Collins," one executive from the film's makers Lionsgate told Variety. "Anybody reads that book, a young girl or young guy, everyone responds overwhelmingly positive to the material. It's a fantastic story."
Final ticket sales figures are due out Monday.
For fans eager for more, a movie based on Catching Fire, the second book in the Collins trilogy, is scheduled for release in November 2013.
24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.
The Duchess of Cambridge has revealed how her daughter, Princess Charlotte, has inherited the British royal family's love of horses. Read More »
Prince William and Kate expressed their gratitude for the warm welcome they received from Canadians as they wrapped up their eight-day tour with their young children. Read More »
10 epic pics.
All the deets.
South AfricaCity Press
Johannesburg CBDResourcing Solutions
HousesR 1 200 000
HousesR 6 900 000
HousesR 2 495 000