The Hunger Games: Catching Fire rocks US box office to win fourth biggest debut

The blockbuster sequel took $161 million in its first week of release

The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire took $161 million (£99.2 million) this weekend to become the fourth biggest debut ever at the US box office.

The blockbuster sequel, starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, failed to beat Iron Man 3's opening sales of $147 million, but broke The Twilight Saga: New Moon's record to achieve the most successful November opening to date.

Only The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part II have beaten The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in opening takings at the US box office.

The first film from Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games franchise took $152 million in its opening weekend last year, but Catching Fire enjoyed a bigger budget and is said to appeal to a wider audience.

The film, which also stars Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, follows the lives of young people who must fight each other to the death on a television show run by cruel rulers.

Marvel's Thor: The Dark World was the film's closest rival at the box office this weekend, taking $14.1 million in its fourth week of release, while The Best Man Holiday debuted at $12.5 million.

Disney comedy Delivery Man, the chart's only other new entry, came in fourth place with box office takings of $8.2 million.

The uplifting film stars Vince Vaughn as a sperm donor on a mission to get to know his 533 children.

Back in the UK, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire took £12 million during its opening weekend, after 'midnight screenings' last Wednesday brought in £300,000 from 275 cinemas.