Teen film phenomenon The Hunger Games took nearly $US20 million ($A19.32 million) in midnight screenings alone on Friday in the United States, the seventh-best ever, industry tracker Exhibitor Relations said.
It could make more than $US100 million for the full three-day weekend in North America, a spokesman said.
Armies of fans stayed up into the early hours to watch the post-apocalyptic movie, as it vies to score the biggest-ever opening weekend box office for a movie in relatively off-season March.
The movie made $US19.7 million in midnight screenings. "That's a huge number for an untested property. To come out of a gate that strong is huge," said Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations.
"We are definitely looking for $100 million (US dollars) for the weekend as long as it stays strong, and it seems that it will. We are looking at probably $40-50 million (US dollars) just for Friday alone," he told AFP.
Industry observers have predicted the film could well exceed past contenders for best opening weekend of a March release, passing the $US116.1 million that Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp, sold over its first three days in 2010.
The two biggest-grossing openers were both (northern) summer releases: the last Harry Potter film took $US169 million in its first weekend, followed by The Dark Knight with $US158 million, according to figures released by Box Office Mojo.
The Hunger Games is based on the thriller of the same name by US novelist Suzanne Collins, part of a trilogy that has sold 30 million copies worldwide, the latest teen publishing phenomenon in the wake of the Twilight saga.
Set in Panem, a fictional land born of the ashes of a ruined North America, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence as a young girl forced to fight for her life in a Roman circus-style televised blood sport - known as The Hunger Games.
Bock noted that, while impressive, the midnight box office for Hunger Games was less than half that of the last Harry Potter movie. But that series was 7 or 8 films strong.
"So to do this out of a gate is a marvellous number," he said."The tracking has been huge on this film. Fans have been flocking to it. It’s very similar to the Twilight phenomenon. But it is doing better than the original Twilight."
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