However, the third movie in the immensely popular franchise did drop off dramatically from its predecessors, and even wound up below the penultimate chapters in the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises.
Playing at 4,151 theaters, Mockingjay opened to $121.9 million this weekend. That's well above Transformers: Age of Extinction's $100 million debut, which was the previous high for 2014. Overall, this opening weekend ranks 15th all-time.
Mockingjay's debut doesn't compare favorably to the other movies in the Hunger Games franchise, though: it's down 23 percent from Catching Fire's $158 million, and is also significantly lower than the original movie's $152 million. More surprising is the fact that Mockingjay wound up lower than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1's $125 million and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1's $138 million.
It's worth noting up front that Lionsgate is going to make a ton of money on this movie, both domestically and internationally. This opening reinforces that The Hunger Games is one of the most popular and successful big-screen franchises ever.
At the same time, a 23 percent drop going in to the penultimate installment is stunning for a series that's been as well-managed and well-received as this one.
As covered extensively in the weekend forecast, Mockingjay had a lot working against it. The final book in the Hunger Games franchise is widely regarded as the least successful, and surely some viewers weren't interested in paying to see only the first half of that story.
The movie also lacked the strong marketing hook that the first two had—if you want to see the games, you need to buy a ticket—and received noticeably weaker reviews. Finally, this was the first installment that wasn't on IMAX screens: along with a tiny hit in direct revenue, this also served to lessen the movie's "event" status.
If Mockingjay holds up like the first two Hunger Games movies, it will close with around $325 million, which would put it below Guardians of the Galaxy. It's rare that the third movie in a franchise holds up as well as its predecessors, though: a more likely outcome is a total just over $300 million.
In a distant second place, Big Hero 6 eased 42 percent to $20.1 million. To date, the Disney Animation hit has grossed $135.7 million, and remains on track to finish with around $200 million (though it needs to hold up against Penguins of Madagascar, which could be tough).
Christopher Nolan's Interstellar took third place with $15.3 million (off 46 percent). Through its third weekend, the movie has earned $120.9 million, and is on pace to close below $175 million.
After opening in first place last weekend, Dumb and Dumber To fell victim to some poor word-of-mouth in its second outing. The comedy sequel plummeted 61 percent to $14.1 million, which brings its 10-day total to $57.7 million. With Horrible Bosses 2 on the horizon, it's very unlikely that Dumber To comes close to $100 million.
Gone Girl finished in the Top Five for the eighth weekend in a row. The movie added $2.8 million, and has so far grossed a stunning $156.8 million.
Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything expanded to 140 locations and cracked the Top 10 with $1.51 million. That translates to $10,798 per-theater, which is a strong average for this point in a platform release. Look for the movie to make another big expansion over Thanksgiving weekend.
Coinciding with its domestic debut, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 opened in 85 international markets as well this weekend. That includes all major territories except China and Japan.
The penultimate chapter in the Hunger Games franchise earned an estimated $152 million, which is up four percent from Catching Fire across the same markets. Its top markets were the U.K. ($19.9 million) and Germany ($13.7 million); that's the biggest opening of the year in Germany, and will likely be the biggest in the U.K. as well. In Russia, it opened to $11.1 million, which is a 19 percent improvement over Catching Fire (that's the biggest jump for a major market).
Mockingjay's other major openings included France ($10.5 million), Mexico ($12.1 million), Australia ($10.1 million), Brazil ($8.8 million), Italy ($5.3 million), Spain ($5.2 million) and South Korea ($3.5 million).
Catching Fire wrapped up with $440 million overseas; with China and Japan on the way, Mockingjay should get to a similar level.
Interstellar added $70 million this weekend, which is a strong result considering the competition it faced from Mockingjay.
The movie opened to $1.9 million in Japan, which is its final major market. More impressive was its performance in nearby countries China and South Korea. In China, Interstellar added $30.6 million, which is off just 26 percent from opening weekend. Through 12 days, its earned an impressive $82.3 million, and ranks second all-time for Warner Bros.
Meanwhile, Interstellar has officially become a phenomenon in South Korea, where it held first place for the third weekend in a row with $10.4 million. It's now the biggest movie ever for Warner Bros. with $50.5 million.
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• Forecast: Will 'Mockingjay' Open Over $150 Million This Weekend?
• Holiday 2014 Forecast
• Which 2014 Movies Could Reach $1 Billion?
• 'Dumb' Sequel Takes First Ahead of 'Big Hero 6,' 'Interstellar'
This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2013 - 'Catching Fire' Burns Bright, Sets November Record
• 2012 - 'Breaking Dawn' Ends 'Twilight' Franchise on Strong Note
• 2011 - 'Breaking Dawn's Huge Debut Just Shy of 'Twilight' Record
• 2010 - 'Deathly' Marks Liveliest 'Harry Potter' Debut Yet
• 2009 - 'New Moon' Opens with Deafening Howl
• 2008 - Box Office Enters 'Twilight' Zone
• 2007 - 'Beowulf' Can't Fell Box Office Blahs
• 2006 - Penguins Tip-Tap Past Bond
• 2005 - Harry Potter's 'Goblet' Runneth Over with Cash
• Weekend Box Office Results
• All-Time Opening Weekends