Catching Fire: Hunger Games sequel to set box office alight with $175m opening

Jennifer Lawrence's high profile could help generate big bucks

Box office analysts are predicting that Catching Fire, the second film in the Hunger Games franchise, could bag the second biggest opening weekend in history when it is released later this month.

The film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, could "easily" soar past the $175m (£109m) mark in the US on its first three days of release, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The first film in the franchise recorded a massive three-day debut of $152m last year, ranking sixth on the all-time list.

It's unlikely that Catching Fire will top The Avengers' $207m bow, but it could well finish above Iron Man 3's $174m and the last Harry Potter movie's $169m. estimates that the film will gross $168m over the three-day period, while studio Lionsgate offered a reserved prediction of between $140m and $150m.

But it's likely that Catching Fire will surpass its predecessor. The first film enjoyed a positive critical reception, and Jennifer Lawrence has a much higher profile since her Oscar win for Silver Linings Playbook. The actress was paid $10m for her role in the sequel, up from $500,000 for the original.

Wall Street analysts Evercore believe the film will gross a total of $950m worldwide – up from the $691m generated by the first film – largely thanks to a boost in international (non-US) markets.

Last year, The Hunger Games was only the twelfth highest grossing movie of 2012 in the UK, even finishing behind Prometheus and Ice Age: Continental Drift – both of which it beat handsomely in the US.

Expect a substantial rise in its box office receipts this time around, though it remains to be seen whether it can beat the £47m total amassed by this year's current UK champion, Despicable Me 2.