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Box office update: 'Catching Fire' earns $70.5 million on Friday, may open lower than first 'Hunger Games'

UPDATE: Catching Fire opened to $161.1 million, the best November of all time.

On its first Friday in theaters, Lionsgate’s hotly anticipated sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire pulled in $70.5 million, a gross that includes $25.3 million that the film earned during Thursday night engagements beginning at 8 p.m.

Catching Fire was projected to open substantially higher than the original Hunger Games, which debuted with $152.5 million in March 2012, but it actually appears headed for a finish in the exact same range, perhaps earning around $150 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Though Catching Fire will likely score the best November opening of all time, ahead of The Twilight Saga: New Moon‘s $142.9 million bow, it will need great holds on Saturday and Sunday to take down Iron Man 3‘s $174.1 million opening (which benefitted from a boost from 3-D ticket sales) as the best of 2013, though it’s still a possibility.

Critical Mass: Is 'Catching Fire' as good as the original 'Hunger Games'?

Empire Strikes Back or The Matrix Reloaded? The Dark Knight or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest? Often, the follow-up to a sure-thing franchise starter, freed of the demands of table-setting exposition, delivers a deeper, more character-driven story. Other times, the sequel is a double-down rehash that makes you second-guess what you liked about the original in the first place. And occasionally, the second film is a space-holder, a bridge from the movie that first introduced the characters to the third (and fourth) chapter that will ultimately determine their fate.

With Catching Fire, the adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, critics seem to be leaning towards a combination of 1 and 3. It’s a more-confident, more-polished movie that delves deeper into Panem’s political conflict. But it’s also more a prequel to the first of two Mockingjay movies than a sequel. There’s a bigger universe to explore and Catching Fire is necessary to get us there.

Jennifer Lawrence is back as Katniss, who’s struggling with post-traumatic stress after out-shooting and out-thinking the competition in the Hunger Games, allowing her and her for-show boyfriend Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) to survive as co-winners. She’s thrown back into the Hunger Games arena to battle a collection of all-star killers when President Snow (Donald Sutherland), fearing rebellion in the oppressed districts, correctly sees her as a threatening symbol of defiance.

The rest of the Katniss entourage is back as well, with Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, and Stanley Tucci reprising their roles under the direction of Francis Lawrence, who takes the reins from Gary Ross. Joining the team are Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the Capitol’s clever new Gamemaker, and Sam Claflin, as a beefcake gladiator who’s equal parts lover and fighter.

But it’s Jennifer Lawrence, who some moviegoers did not even know pre-Hunger Games, that makes Catching Fire more than just the latest big YA box-office spectacle. The 23-year-old actress has won an Oscar since she last visited Panem, and critics are impressed that she commits to Katniss just as much as she would a complex David O. Russell character. “She more than holds her own, turning her face into a dreamy-pale Valkyrie mask,” writes EW’s Owen Gleiberman. “You react to every wave of sadness and fury roiling around inside Katniss, even when Katniss isn’t allowed to show it.”

A movie like Catching Fire doesn’t need the critics to give it their stamp of approval to win the weekend, but click below to see what they are saying about the sequel before you purchase your tickets. READ FULL STORY

Willow Shields talks 'Catching Fire,' working with Jennifer Lawrence, and how she's preparing for 'Mockingjay'


[Spoiler Alert!]

Katniss may be the Everdeen sister who must battle for her life in the arena, but the younger Prim grows up during the series, transforming from a vulnerable young girl struggling to survive in District 12 into a caretaker for her family while Katniss is away.

Thirteen-year-old actress Willow Shields is doing the same in the film adaptations as Prim, confidently carrying her poignant scenes opposite Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss. But as readers know, Prim’s expanding role in the series ultimately leads to a devastating scene in Mockingjay, which Shields admits she’s not yet sure how to handle.

In the meantime, however, Shields can be seen in the second installment, Catching Fire, tending to Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth) wounds and reassuring Katniss. The actress talked to EW about getting the part, her thoughts on Prim, and how Jennifer Lawrence coached her through the weighty role.

'Catching Fire' early reviews: 'Jolts of adrenaline' or 'glumly mediocre'?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire won’t open in the U.S. until Nov. 22, but the sequel to last year’s box-office smash had its world premiere in London on Monday night. “Everything is much bigger,” Jennifer Lawrence said on the red carpet. “Everything is intensified. … The stakes are much higher.”

The early reviews seemed to agree with Lawrence, for better and worse — but mostly for the better. “Catching Fire is leaner, gutsier and smarter,” wrote Time Out London. “In hand-to-hand combat, it would have the first film on the floor, trapped in a headlock, whimpering for mercy. Over two-and-a-half heart-pounding hours, it doesn’t drag for a second.”

The Hollywood Reporter thinks fans of the books and the first film will consume the sequel, which was directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) after Gary Ross left the franchise: “The new film boasts a noticeably spiffier, more confident feel than the first, even as the overriding impression is one of methodical responsibility to the source material.” READ FULL STORY

'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' clip shows Katniss tearful and scared


Being in a life-saving fake relationship so you aren’t executed for being disloyal to the Capitol has its downsides.

As part of yesterday’s ‘Global Fan Day’ Facebook released a new clip from the The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The 39-second segment shows a tearful Katniss scared about choices she’s made, and worrying about how best to keep both herself and Peeta alive post-Victory Tour.

“This trip doesn’t end when you get back home,” Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) says after she asks for guidance. “You never get off this train. You’re a mentor now. You two are mentors now. From now on, your job is to be a distraction so people forget what their real problems are.”

Chilling. Watch below: READ FULL STORY

First 'Catching Fire' clip shows Katniss and Gale's tense confrontation -- VIDEO


Some Katnisses are born great, some Katnisses achieve greatness, and some Katnisses have greatness thrust upon them.

The heroine at the center of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire may seem to fall under the first category — but she sees herself as a member of the third. As the Girl on Fire tells her oldest friend Gale in this first uninterrupted clip from the film, she never intended to become a revolutionary leader. All Katniss Everdeen really wants is to ensure the safety of her family and loved ones.

Unfortunately, the restless, downtrodden citizens of Panem have other plans for her. And Gale is serving as their mouthpiece: “You haven’t hurt people, Katniss — you’ve given them an opportunity. They just have to be brave enough to take it.”

Catch the clip below, as presented by Liam Hemsworth on Tonight Tuesday. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire blazes into theaters Nov. 22.


Final 'Catching Fire' trailer debuts during World Series Game 4 -- VIDEO


“Would you like to be in a real war?” And baseball fans think the World Series are high stakes!

Lionsgate debuted the final trailer for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire during Sunday night’s nail-biter Game 4 of the World Series matchup between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. (A nice nod of the head to the fact that women watch sports and men will go see movies starring female heroes.)

It was a killer spot that teased more of the new treacherous arena of the all-star tribute games. Howler monkeys. Jabberjays. Jennifer Lawrence doing what she does best (when her face throbs with panic and she lets loose one of those raspy screams). Willow Shields’ Prim and Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta, and Donald Sutherland’s President Snow’s menacing voice of course, had nice moments. But the trailer rightfully belonged to Lawrence’s Katniss. Also, HOPE IS STRONGER THAN FEAR.

Watch the trailer below:

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire': See the first TV spot

Rejoice, citizens of Panem: Only 37 days remain before the 75th annual Hunger Games! And if the following advertisement is any indication, this year’s competition is going to be a doozy — filled with love triangles, fiery costumes, and some very sharp shooting.

(Translation: The first TV spot for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire debuted on Walmart’s Facebook page about 13 hours ago. It packs a lot of drama into one very tense minute, including angsty scenes for those on Team Peeta, Team Gale, and Team Prim. Wait, is anyone on Team Prim? In any case, check it out for yourself below.)


'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' tickets go on sale October 1st!


With only twelve weeks to go before release, Lionsgate announced Friday that tickets for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will go on sale starting October 1st, at 12p.m. ET / 9a.m. PT with advance movie tickets available through Fandango and

The first installment broke records for advance ticket sales, outpacing the Twilight series.

'Game of Thrones' star Natalie Dormer cast as Cressida in 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay'

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire doesn’t even hit theaters until Nov. 22, and we’re already looking past it to the final two movies of the franchise … but in a good way.

Natalie Dormer has officially signed on to play the role of Cressida in both The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2. Book fans will remember Cressida as the film director who, along with Castor, Pollux, and Messalla, flees The Capitol to join the rebellion and ends up taking her camera crew on a journey to follow Katniss and get footage of the uprising.

Although we’re sure she will be less recognizable once she inhabits Cressida’s bald head and many tattoos, Dormer can currently be recognized as Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones. She will also appear in the upcoming film Rush.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 & 2 will be directed by Francis Lawrence and have release dates of Nov. 21, 2014, and Nov. 20, 2015, respectively.

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