THE Hunger Games took €162m ($214m) worldwide in its opening weekend and became America's fastest-selling film that isn't a sequel.
It is the biggest debut outside the summer blockbuster season, and ranks as the third-highest domestic opening weekend in history behind only last summer's Harry Potter finale and 2008 Batman sequel The Dark Knight, Lionsgate said on Sunday.
The film also went to the number one spot in nearly every country, amassing a global total of $214.3 million. What's more, The Hunger Games alone earned more than all films combined during the comparable 2011 dates.
Long lines of fans snaked outside cinemas around the world as the frenzy reached fever pitch with midnight showings. In many locations cinemas ran sold-out performances throughout the night.
The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy based on the best-selling novels by Suzanne Collins set in a post-apocalyptic future where teenage girls and boys battle to the death in a televised contest.
The film has a rating of 85pc on the online film reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. This paper's critic Robbie Collin gave the film five a star review, calling it "an essential science fiction film for our times".
Industry analysts say The Hunger Games is already attracting females across the age range and younger males - making it what is called a "three-way quadrant movie". Over-25s contributed 56pc of the film's opening.
It could be on the way to catching the final cinema-going category of adult males. "The heat from the anticipation by teens and tweens is making more adults get interested and make it a four-quadrant film," wrote Nikki Finke, editor of Deadline Hollywood.
It's the first blockbuster franchise for Lionsgate, a smaller Hollywood studio best-known previously for the Saw horror series and comedian Tyler Perry's films. An executive at the Lionsgate studio said that champagne was flowing as the box office numbers came in.
Jennifer Lawrence has spoken about the trials of taking on the role of Katniss, who fans are calling one of the all-time great movie heroines. The actress, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2011 for her strikingly similar role in the thriller Winter's Bone, had six weeks of archery training and said she had to "eat a ton" to keep up with demandingly physical action takes.
"I think I'm good at shooting arrows now - and I can skin a squirrel," she told The Sun.
The hardest part, she added, was the pressure that she put on herself to play a character that she adored from reading the books.
"I almost wished I didn't love them as much as I did... Katniss is such an iconic character and there is so much pressure just coming from myself because I am a fan."
Lawrence auditioned for the part of Bella in the Twilight franchise. Her next part is as a former sex addict in the forthcoming film The Silver Linings Playbook, alongside Robert De Niro.