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"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" blazed straight to the top of weekend movie charts, setting a U.S. and Canadian record for November ticket sales and hauling in a huge $307.7 million around the world.
Fans poured into theaters for the second installment in the series starring Jennifer Lawrence as scrappy heroine Katniss Everdeen, the skilled archer who becomes a beacon of hope for the oppressed residents of the fictional nation of Panem.
"Catching Fire" collected an estimated $161.1 million from Thursday night through Sunday in the United States and Canada, a record domestic debut for the month of November. It topped the $152.5 million opening for "Hunger Games" in March 2012 that established the series as a blockbuster franchise.
The new film scored 2013's second-biggest debut, behind the May opening for superhero sequel "Iron Man 3" of $174.1 million, and also marked the fourth-biggest domestic film opening in history.
Playing in 65 markets around the world, "Catching Fire" also grabbed $146.6 million in foreign sales through Sunday, according to distributor Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
Domestic IMAX screenings accounted for $12.6 million of the ticket sales, a November record opening for the big-screen format.
The sequel also attracted a broader audience than the original "Hunger Games," Lions Gate said, with age groups over and under age 25 each comprising half of ticket buyers and an audience 12 percent more male than that of "The Hunger Games."
The original film earned $691.2 million worldwide.
"The strength of the 'Hunger Games' franchise is not to be underestimated," said Phil Contrino, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com.
"This property has clearly expanded its fan base in a big way both at home and overseas," Contrino noted, adding there was little doubt the new film would shatter the first film's global haul.
The second film follows Katniss on a victory tour with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) after their win in the annual teen death match staged by the government to keep order. As their heroic actions set off an underground movement for revolution, the two are forced back to the arena to again fight for their lives.
Critics applauded "Catching Fire," which earned an 89 percent positive rating among reviews compiled by the Rotten Tomatoes website and praise for Lawrence, who won a best actress Oscar for last year's "Silver Linings Playbook." Audiences awarded an "A" grade in polling by CinemaScore, an endorsement that should help propel sales in the coming weeks.
Lions Gate spent about