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“Mockingjay – Part 1” Has Lowest “Hunger Games" Franchise U.S. Debut

The film's $123 million domestic opening weekend is also, however, the best of the year. Hollywood is weird sometimes.

Posted on November 23, 2014, at 2:15 p.m. ET

Murray Close / Lionsgate

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.

Only in Hollywood could making $123 million in three days ever be seen as a disappointment.

That is the unusual fate befalling The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, which opened to that lofty estimated figure at the domestic box office this weekend. While $123 million is good enough to give the movie the biggest U.S. debut of 2014 — besting the June opening of Transformers: Age of Extinction — it is also the lowest debut for the Hunger Games franchise by a hefty margin. The Hunger Games opened at $152 million in March 2012, and its sequel, Catching Fire, debuted with $158.1 million this time last year, one of the biggest opening weekends ever at the box office.

But Mockingjay – Part 1's debut represents a 22% drop from Catching Fire's record-breaking high. Frigid weather in much of the U.S. and a lack of IMAX screens (currently booked for Interstellar) could account for a portion of the drop-off. Some audiences could have been wary of the film's darker tone, while others could have been turned off by Lionsgate's decision to follow in the footsteps of big franchises that came before it, by splitting Suzanne Collins' novel into two parts, extending the franchise — and the box office receipts — for another year.

Whatever the reasons for Mockingjay – Part 1's relative drop in box office returns, however, it's another representation of 2014's domestic box office slump: Returns in the U.S. are down 4.9% from this time a year ago, and 6.4% from 2012.

Internationally, however, the box office picture for Mockingjay – Part 1 is far rosier: The film took in an estimated $152 million in 85 overseas markets this weekend. Not only is that the first time a Hunger Games movie has grossed more in its opening weekend overseas than in the U.S., but Mockingjay – Part 1's foreign box office earnings actually improved on Catching Fire's international debut by roughly 4%.

The overseas market has been a wildly potent area for growth for the Hunger Games franchise in general. Catching Fire's $440.2 million foreign total improved a whopping 55% over the first film's $283.2 million international gross. While Mockingjay – Part 1's overseas box office almost certainly won't improve at that same magnitude, the movie is on a far more welcome trajectory for its international distributors.

As for Lionsgate — which distributes the Hunger Games films in the U.S. as well as bankrolling the productions — there is always hope for Mockingjay – Part 2, opening Nov. 20, 2015.

Here are the estimated top 10 box office figures for Friday to Sunday, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1* — $123 million

2. Big Hero 6 — $20.1 million

3. Interstellar — $15.1 million

4. Dumb and Dumber To — $13.8 million

5. Gone Girl — $2.8 million

6. Beyond the Lights — $2.6 million

7. St. Vincent — $2.4 million

8. Fury — $1.9 million

9. Birdman — $1.85 million

10. The Theory of Everything — $1.5 million

*Opening weekend

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