LOS ANGELES — Katniss Everdeen may be engaged in a savage battle in “The Hunger Games,” but there’s little doubt about the victor in a different arena: the box office.
Audience interest in the big-screen adaptation of the literary teen epic is so astronomical that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many ticket sales the movie will sell in its opening weekend.
The film took in $68.25 million domestically in its first day, a record for a non-sequel.
Movie industry analysts report that the Friday total for “The Hunger Games” was the fifth-best opening day ever.
The big start should translate into an opening weekend of as much as $140 million domestically, according to Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
In that case, the film would have the highest-grossing three-day weekend ever for a non-sequel, not adjusting for inflation.
That record is held by Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which grossed $116.1 million on its opening in March 2010.
First-day revenues for “The Hunger Games” were well behind the record $91.1 million for last summer’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”
That film — the eighth in the “Harry Potter” series — raked in $169.2 million in its opening weekend.
But “The Hunger Games” came close to each of the last three “Twilight” movies, whose opening days ranged from $68.5 million to $72.7 million.
“The Hunger Games,” which stars 21-year-old Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”), is based on the first novel in author Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young-adult trilogy.
Unlike “Twilight,” which appealed strongly to young women, “The Hunger Games” is resonating with all demographics, including males 25 and younger.
The film has also received overwhelmingly positive critical reviews: On Thursday morning, it had a 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Lionsgate, which is distributing the film, produced the movie for a little over $80 million after tax credits from North Carolina, where it was shot.
The independent studio spent $45 million to market the movie domestically, sending the young cast on an eight-city national mall tour and holding premieres in LA, New York, London, Paris and Berlin.
The film is debuting in most foreign countries this weekend, though Lionsgate sold off the movie’s international distribution rights to various releasing outfits to mitigate its financial risk.
As a result, Lionsgate has recouped more than half the film’s production budget, but if the movie is a big hit overseas, the studio will not reap as much of the benefits.