'Mockingjay — Part 1' edges 'Guardians' atop 2014 domestic box office

#boxoffice: 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1' was highest-grossing film of 2014 domestically

Looks like the odds were in Lionsgate's favor in 2014.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1" flew past "Guardians of the Galaxy" as the highest grossing film of the year domestically, Lionsgate reported Thursday. 

The penultimate film in the blockbuster "Hunger Games" franchise pulled in a whopping $331.8 million at the box office in the U.S. and Canada. It finished slightly ahead of Marvel's "Guardians," which grossed $331.17 million domestically.

The second film in the trilogy, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," was 2013's hghest-grossing movie domestically with a cumulative total of more than $409 million in ticket sales. It surpassed another Marvel film, "Iron Man 3."

This marks the first time that two franchise films have been No. 1 at the box office in back-to-back years.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, "Mockingjay — Part 1" follows heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in District 13 as she transforms into the Mockingjay, a symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol.

The PG-13-rated film also stars Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

It topped the box office for three weekends in a row following its Nov. 21 release. Though the franchise is a favorite — especially among younger audiences — reviews for Part 1 were mixed. While some critics called it a solid segue, others complained that the two-part approach to the finale feels like a cheap cash-in.

It earned a A-minus rating from audience polling firm CinemaScore and a decent 65% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

With its $123-million debut, "Mockingjay — Part 1" fell short of the studio’s initial $130-million expectation and took in far less than forecasters' over-the-top projections of between $150 million and $170 million. It also didn't surpass the robust openings of its franchise predecessors. 

Based on the bestselling young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins, the “Hunger Games” movies have been big huge hits for the Santa Monica-based studio.

Director James Gunn's "Guardians" film, starring Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Zoe Saldana, is from Disney's Marvel Studios, the unit behind blockbuster franchises such as “Iron Man,” “Thor,” “Captain America” and “The Avengers.”

The sci-fi action film soared at the box office and became a surprise hit. Despite its unconventional August release date, it was the summer's highest-grossing film. 

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