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'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' ignites Thursday box office

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It looks like the odds are in Lionsgate's favor. "Hunger Games: Catching Fire," the sci-fi action sequel starring Jennifer Lawrence, took in an estimated $25.2 million in domestic ticket sales for Thursday night showings, outpacing the first movie in the series by 28%. 

However, the numbers are skewed somewhat because theaters starting showing "Catching Fire" at 8 p.m. Thursday night, whereas the first "Hunger Games," which generated $19.7 million, didn't start playing until midnight. Last year's "Hunger Games" went on to make more than $152 million in its first weekend. 

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The new Lionsgate film's $25 million would make it the seventh-biggest first-night grosser ever, with the top spot held by "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2," which generated $43.5 million. 

"Catching Fire" is expected to make as much as $180 million this weekend, though more conservative projections have put the movie between $150 million and $170 million.

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It will probably break the record for the biggest-ever November box office take, currently held by 2009's "Twilight Saga: New Moon" at $142.9 million, and it may unseat "Iron Man 3" as a biggest opener of 2013. "Iron Man 3" made more than $174 million in its first weekend.   

"Catching Fire" is taking off internationally too, having already opened in 43 countries, to the tune of $32 million in ticket sales. Many of those territories are seeing sales that doubled the first "Hunger Games," according to Lionsgate.

One record has already fallen: Ticket-selling service Fandango said that "Catching Fire" is the top seller of advance tickets of the year, beating "Iron Man 3."

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Follow on Twitter: @rfaughnder

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

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MoviesEntertainmentServices and ShoppingThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire (movie)Iron Man 3 (movie)Modern Family (tv program)The Twilight Saga: New Moon (movie)
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