LOS ANGELES - "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" set North America's weekend box office alight, earning $158.1 million (S$197 million) in one of the biggest movie debuts ever, industry figures showed Monday.
Starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, the second instalment in the blockbuster series scored the biggest ever November debut, and the sixth best opening weekend of all time, Exhibitor Relations (ERC) said.
That beat the original 2012 "Hunger Games" movie starring Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, a teenager forced into a deadly battle for survival in the macabre post-apocalyptic kingdom of Panem, which took $152.5 million.
Internationally the "Hunger Games" sequel - the films are adapted from Suzanne Collins' trilogy of novels - took another $146.6 million, for a combined global total of $307.7 million, Exhibitor Relations said.
The biggest ever North America box office debut was last year's "The Avengers" which earned $207,438,708, followed by this year's "Iron Man 3" on $174,144,585, according to ERC figures.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," 2011's boy-wizard franchise finale, earned $169,189,427, while "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012) came in fourth with $160,887,295, and the 2008 "The Dark Knight" made $158,411,483.
"The Avengers" has made more than $1.5 billion worldwide since its release, according to the IMDb Pro movie industry database.
The first "Hunger Games" movie saw Katniss and her male friend Peeta played by Josh Hutcherson emerge as the winners of the 74th "Hunger Games", a fight to the death between children organised by the evil rulers of Panem.
The latest film sees the duo fighting for their lives again while sowing the seeds of a youth rebellion, setting up the climactic showdown of the third novel "Mockingjay", split into two films.
The final instalment is due out in November next year.