(EW.com) -- The "Games" have officially begun!
Last night, "The Hunger Games" grossed a truly staggering $19.7 million from midnight showings across the country -- the highest midnight total ever for a non-sequel, and the seventh highest midnight total ever (behind three "Harry Potters" and three "Twilights"). After only a few hours, it's clear that the film is already a smash, and it's almost certainly headed for a debut well above the $100 million mark.
Sure, the overnight figure can't compare to the $43.5 million that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" conjured up at midnight shows last year (on its way to $169.3 million -- the highest opening weekend of all time), or the $30.3 million that "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" found at midnight on its way to $138.1 million, but it's likely that "The Hunger Games," which doesn't have the same amount of built-in sequel anticipation, won't face the same weekend frontloadedness as those titles. Saturday and Sunday grosses should prove quite sturdy. Back in 2008, "The Dark Knight" earned $18.5 million at midnight, but still managed a stunning $158 million debut -- the second highest debut of all time -- proving that not every blockbuster makes a full 25 percent of its opening weekend gross at midnight.
Based on this $19.7 million figure, "The Hunger Games" should take in at least $50 million on Friday and could reach as high as $150 million over the full weekend frame -- although that estimation is very bullish. My fellow box office prognosticating colleague John Young is predicting a more sensible $130 million weekend. We'll have to wait and see see how high it climbs.
Either way, it appears that the odds are very much in Lionsgate's favor!
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