'Hunger Games' sequel opens in theaters around the world Thursday

(NBC News) - With the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" movie franchises having wrapped up in the past year and a half, Hollywood has been looking for the next blockbuster series.

Thursday, the second film in the "The Hunger Games" series, "Catching Fire" will look to fill the void and once again conquer the box office.

If "The Hunger Games" was the spark, "Catching Fire" has potential to become a full-fledged conflagration.

"I think people are going to go back and see it twice, three times, and maybe even four times," says Fandango.com's Dave Karger.

The fan frenzy for the film's stars at last week's London premiere provided evidence.

"It's really crazy. It's nuts," said Jennifer Lawrence. "There's so many people and they're all screaming!"

That fevered anticipation, combined with generally positive reviews for this second of four films, have expectations running high.

"We don't want to be the guy that spikes the football on the five yard line, but we feel very good about the movie," says Lionsgate Films Vice Chairman Michael Burns.

The optimism is fueled by the appeal of the franchise's post-apocalyptic storyline with young adults.

The original had the biggest non-summer opening weekend ever, with $152 million.

Many observers expect "Catching Fire" to live up to its title at the box office for weeks to come.

"It's going to have a gargantuan Thanksgiving as well, and even though there's a lot of big movies coming out at Christmas time, I think 'Catching Fire' is still going to hold on quite well," Karger predicts.

That will set the stage for the series' third film, "Mockingjay," next November.


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