LOS ANGELES (AP) — "Mockingjay — Part 2," the final "Hunger Games" film, soared to a $101 million opening in its first weekend in theaters, according to Rentrak estimates Sunday.
For most films, the figure would be a coup, but the latest chapter of "The Hunger Games" collected the lowest opening take among the four films in the series.
The series starring Jennifer Lawrence kicked off with a bang in March 2012 with a massive $152.5 million weekend — one of the highest openings of all time.
"Catching Fire," the second film in the franchise, one-upped that with a $158.1 million debut in November 2013.
Lionsgate split the final book in Suzanne Collins' trilogy into two films, following the precedent of "Twilight" and "Harry Potter."
"Mockingjay — Part 1" opened on this weekend last year to $121.9 million, considered at the time to be a necessary and expected dip while fans awaited the final installment, which, if it had mimicked "Twilight" or "Harry Potter," would have snared at least the second-highest (if not highest) opening in the series.
The franchise low for the final "Hunger Games" film, which cost a reported $160 million to make, was a bit of a surprise. Lionsgate, however, was not disappointed.
"It's a great accomplishment. The overall franchise has grossed over $2 billion worldwide and counting," said David Spitz, co-president of theatrical distribution for Lionsgate. "It's a pretty phenomenal result."
Expectations run high when films become so popular and successful in such a short a time, said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for Rentrak.
"If we live in a world where a $100 million opening is a disappointment, that's pretty crazy," he said
Only 34 movies in history have opened at over $100 million, including all four in "The Hunger Games" series.
Dergarabedian attributes the showing to a down marketplace. Just two weekends ago, "Spectre," which fell to second place this week with $14.6 million, failed to live up to the domestic opening of "Skyfall," the previous James Bond film.
"Thanksgiving represents a good opportunity for a really strong second weekend," Dergarabedian said of "Mockingjay — Part 2."
With $12.8 million, "The Peanuts Movie" finished behind "Spectre" and ahead of the Seth Rogen holiday comedy "The Night Before," which earned an expected $10.1 million. The R-rated film cost about $25 million to produce.
"This is a movie that people love. Opening early seemed like a really good prelude to the Thanksgiving weekend where it will expand beautifully," said Rory Bruer, Sony's president of worldwide distribution. "It's a good start for us."
The Julia Roberts thriller "The Secret in Their Eyes," a remake of the Oscar-winning Argentinian film, debuted wide this weekend to $6.6 million from 2,392 locations — slightly under expectations.
With the weekend box office down 11 percent from last year, it remains to be seen whether 2015 will indeed become a record-breaking $11 billion year as many predicted at the outset. Box office is up 4.2 percent from last year, but 2013 is the year to beat — and this year is tracking less than 1 percent ahead of that.
"We're in the home stretch," Dergarabedian said. "But remember, we have a little secret weapon in 'Star Wars.'"
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1."The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2," $101 million ($146 million international).
2."Spectre," $14.6 million ($65.7 million international).
3."The Peanuts Movie," $12.8 million ($1.3 million international).
4."The Night Before," $10.1 million.
5."The Secret in Their Eyes," $6.6 million ($1.5 million international).
6."Love the Coopers," $3.9 million.
7."The Martian," $3.7 million ($1.9 million international).
8."Spotlight," $3.6 million.
9."The 33," $2.2 million.
10."Bridge of Spies," $1.9 million ($556,000 international).
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Rentrak:
1. "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2," $146 million.
2. "Spectre," $65.7 million.
3. "Our Times," $12 million.
4. "Inside Men," $10.2 million.
5. "The Transporter Refueled," $9.8 million.
6. "Spanish Affair 2," $7.4 million.
7. "Hotel Transylvania 2," $5.8 million.
8. "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo," $4.2 million.
9. "The Priests," $3.8 million.
10. "Return of the Cuckoo," $3.7 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr