Byline: David Germain Associated Press
LOS ANGELES -- "The Hunger Games" has filled fan appetites with a $155 million opening weekend that puts it near the top of the domestic record book.
The huge haul marks the third-best debut ever in terms of revenue, behind the $169.2 million opening for last year's "Harry Potter" finale and the $158.4 million opening of 2008's "The Dark Knight."
"Harry Potter" and "Batman" were well-established franchises. "The Hunger Games" set a revenue record for a nonsequel, taking in more than twice what the first "Twilight" movie did with its $69.6 million opening weekend.
"This is the birth of a franchise. To launch in this fashion is mind-boggling," said David Spitz, head of distribution at Lionsgate, which now also owns the "Twilight" franchise after its purchase of Summit Entertainment.
While it's already a blockbuster on its home turf, "The Hunger Games" had a much slower start overseas. The film took in $59.3 million in 67 markets, including Great Britain, Germany, France, Russia and Australia.
The "Harry Potter" finale took in a record $314 million overseas in its debut last summer, and half a dozen other films have opened with more than $200 million outside the United States.
Even "John Carter," a dud domestically, managed to take in more than "The Hunger Games" overseas, launching with $70.6 million in 55 international markets two weekends ago.
Still, "The Hunger Games" amassed a worldwide total of $214.3 million in just days.
Domestically, it also was by far the biggest start for a film opening outside the busy summer and holiday seasons. According to Sunday studio estimates, "The Hunger Games" came in nearly $40 million ahead of the previous March record-holder, 2010's "Alice in Wonderland" at $116.1 million.
"The Hunger Games" slid into the No. 3 spot on the domestic revenue chart ahead of "Spider-Man 3," which opened with $151.1 million in 2007. Factoring in today's higher tickets prices, "The Hunger Games" sold fewer tickets over opening weekend than "Spider-Man 3," though.
Fans camped out for the first screenings of "The Hunger Games," which began just after midnight Friday. Many fans showed up dressed as favorite characters from the story.
"That type of behavior puts it on the level of the 'Star Treks' and 'Star Wars,'" Spitz said. "I was so excited to see how everyone was responding to the material and how ecstatic they were to be a part of it."
With a broader fan base than the "Twilight" franchise, "The Hunger Games" pulled in bigger crowds than the top-grossing installment of that series, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," which debuted with $142.8 million.
Women and girls have made up as much as 80 percent of the audience for the "Twilight" flicks. Though it features a female lead, "The Hunger Games" drew more balanced crowds, with girls and women accounting for 61 percent of audiences, according to distributor Lionsgate.
Despite its teen fan base, "The Hunger Games" also did well among older moviegoers. …