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Lions Gate shares hit as debut of 'Hunger Games' sequel disappoints

Cast member Jennifer Lawrence attends the premiere of the film "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in New York, November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Car
Cast member Jennifer Lawrence attends the premiere of the film "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in New York, November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Car

(Reuters) - Distributor Lions Gate Entertainment Corp's shares fell as much as 8.5 percent after the "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" failed to match the sky-high expectations of some box office forecasters despite a chart-topping domestic debut.

The second installment in the series starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the skilled archer who becomes a beacon of hope for the oppressed residents of the fictional nation of Panem, opened to a box office of $161 million in the United States and Canada — a record for November.

The U.S. debut came in below the levels of the most bullish box office forecasters, Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan wrote in a note.

The sequel, however, topped the $152.5 million opening weekend for the first "Hunger Games" movie in March 2012.

"When you have an estimate that sets the expectation level at $180 million and the movie actually comes in at $160 million, despite the fact that is a very significantly large number, there could be some disappointment," Ascendiant Capital Markets analyst Marla Backer told Reuters.

It is the movie's international performance which will really matter to Lions Gate's results and enable it to raise their outlook, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co analyst Benjamin Mogil wrote in a note.

The movie grossed $307.7 million around the world.

Shares were trading at $31.49 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday morning, after dropping to $30.87.

(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Soham Chatterjee in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)

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