In spite of previous speculation that Lionsgate would wait until 2014 to release The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to Chinese theaters, the studio announced this morning that the anticipated sequel will open in the country on November 21--the day before it opens in the U.S. and the day after Warner Bros. debuts reigning U.S. box office champ Gravity in China. That will set off a competition between the two, with Gravity--one of the year's most successful films based on an original property--and Catching Fire, the sequel to last year's biggest box office surprise. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has become a truly global phenomenon, and its day-and-date release in this key territory further cements its status as a worldwide motion picture event of epic proportions," said Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairs Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman.
"The release of the first Hunger Games film in China established a strong fan base on which Catching Fire is positioned to build," said Wendy Reeds, Executive Vice President of Content Sales & Distribution for Celestial Tiger Entertainment (CTE). "China has become one of the world's leading box office territories, and the release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in China is another major step forward in our distribution of film and TV content in this key market." Building on its success is a big question mark; last year's massive box office success will be hard to match--and if they manage to outdo the performance of The Hunger Games at the domestic box office, they'll likely end up with the year's biggest film (The Hunger Games brought in $408 million and change domestically; this year's biggest film, Iron Man 3, has managed $409 million). Lionsgate is currently in production on the third and fourth Hunger Games films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay I & II. Those are scheduled for release in the U.S. in November 2014 and November 2015, respectively.