"The Hunger Games," a sci-fi action film about a teenage girl fighting to survive a life-and-death game show in a dystopian world, broke records Sunday to become the first blockbuster movie of 2012.
The movie took in $155 million in ticket sales over the weekend, making it the biggest weekend non-sequel movie opening ever, according to figures released by box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
It bested the previous record holder, the Tim Burton directed "Alice in Wonderland," starring Johnny Depp, which pulled in $116.1 million in 2010.
The Lionsgate picture is also the third biggest movie opening ever, after last year's final movie of the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2," ($169 million) and the 2008 Batman movie "The Dark Knight" ($158 million), according to figures released by Box Office Mojo.
et in Panem, a fictional land born of the ashes of a ruined North America, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence as 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who is forced to fight for her life in a Roman circus-style televised blood sport known as "The Hunger Games."
The movie received positive reviews from critics -- the website Rottentomatoes.com, which has no mercy on mediocre movies, gave it an "86 Percent Fresh" rating based on critic reviews, and a 95 percent audience approval rating.
"The Hunger Games" is based on the thriller for young adults of the same name by US novelist Suzanne Collins, part of a trilogy that has sold 30 million copies worldwide, the latest teen publishing phenomenon in the wake of the "Twilight" saga.
The movie easily bested all four "Twilight" movies -- the biggest opening for that series was 2009's "Twilight: New Moon" which raked in $141 million.
The movie's haul exceeded even the highest expectation of most analysts.
"The birth of a franchise," proclaimed veteran industry analyst Paul Degerabedian on the website Hollywood.com.
Teen fans of the 2008 novel pushed movie ticket sales into record territory, said Gitesh Pandya of Boxofficeguru.
"A massive built-in audience has been hungry for this movie," Pandya told USA Today.
The post-apocalyptic movie had already made $19.7 million in midnight screenings alone, seventh place in the midnight screening record books.
Even though the figure was far behind the $43.5 million midnight record set by Harry Potter's "Deathly Hallows - Part 2," the amount is "a huge number for an untested property," said Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations.
"To come out of a gate that strong is huge," said Bock.
"It's all Suzanne Collins," one executive from the film's makers Lionsgate told Variety. "Anybody reads that book, a young girl or young guy, everyone responds overwhelmingly positive to the material. It's a fantastic story."
Final ticket sales figures are due out Monday.
For fans eager for more, a movie based on "Catching Fire," the second book in the Collins trilogy, is scheduled for release in November 2013.