LOS ANGELES, March 23 Fans already are devouring
"The Hunger Games," the highly anticipated post-apocalyptic
drama from Lions Gate Entertainment that reaches movie
theaters this weekend.
The movie pulled in $19.7 million in showings just after
midnight early Friday in the United States and Canada, Lions
Gate said. That ranks seventh among all-time midnight
screenings, just behind 2009's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Prince," the studio said.
Hollywood placed lofty expectations on "Hunger Games," the
film based on a best-selling book by Suzanne Collins about
children forced to fight to the death. Sales forecasts for the
opening weekend range as high as $125 million-plus, with some
box-office watchers comparing its drawing power to the popular
"Twilight" vampire romance series.
Last November's Twilight film, "Breaking Dawn - Part 1"
grossed $30.3 million in midnight showings. "Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows - Part 2," last summer's finale of the
blockbuster series about a boy wizard, set the record with $43.5
million from midnight shows, according to Hollywood.com.
"Hunger Games" is expected to become Lion's Gate's biggest
film opening ever. The company's shares have gained 32 percent
in the past six weeks in anticipation.
On Friday, Lions Gate shares fell 2.3 percent to
$14.22 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock
Exchange. Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould, who rates the
stock "equal-weight" with a $15 price target, said investors
likely were capitalizing on the stock's recent gains by "selling
on the good news."