Hunger Games: Catching Fire devours US box office
The Hunger Games sequel has stormed to the top of the US box office chart with takings of $158m (£97.7m).
But Catching Fire narrowly failed to become the biggest opener of the year, falling short of Iron Man 3's debut of $174m (£107m).
The movie, starring Jennifer Lawrence, did achieve the most successful November opening of all time.
Its performance dominated cinema-going in North America, with nearest rival Thor taking in a mere $14.1m (£8.6m).
The only other new entry, Disney comedy Delivery Man, starring Vince Vaughn, had to settled for fourth place and box office returns of $8.2m (£5m).
Catching Fire managed the fourth biggest US opening of all time, behind The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part II.
More complicated box office marketing in recent years has boosted box office returns, with higher-priced Imax and 3D tickets and early Thursday night screenings being taken into account.
NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE
1. Hunger Games: Catching Fire - $158m
2. Thor: The Dark World - $14.1m
3. The Best Man Holiday - $12.5m
4. Delivery Man - $8.2m
5. Free Birds - $5.3m
Catching Fire earned 8% of its first weekend takings from higher priced Imax tickets.
The second outing of the Hunger Games franchise had a more lavish budget, outperforming the first film in its first week at cinemas, and appealing to a wider audience.
The first film, released last year, took $152m (£94m) in its opening weekend.
Paul Dergarabedian, from box office analysts Rentrak, said: "When the first film was released, there was this idea that it was going to appeal largely to young girls. But over time, it's skewing back toward male audiences.
"There's actually a lot of action, there's violence in the movie. It's crossing over to a much broader base.''
The latest film is based on Suzanne Collins' trilogy of dystopian novels where young people fight one another to the death on live television.
Catching Fire was released in the UK on 21 November, and is also expected to figure highly in the box office chart when it is released on Tuesday.