The much anticipated film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s book, “The Hunger Games,” surpassed expectations on its opening weekend, pulling in $155 million. The total earned the film several impressive distinctions, including third-biggest opening weekend of all time, the Associated Press reports:

“The huge haul marks the third-best debut ever in terms of revenue, behind the $169.2 million opening for last year’s “Harry Potter” finale and the $158.4 million opening of 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”

“Harry Potter” and “Batman” were well-established franchises. “The Hunger Games” set a revenue record for a non-sequel, taking in more than twice what the first “Twilight” movie did with its $69.6 million opening weekend.

“This is the birth of a franchise. To launch in this fashion is mindboggling,” said David Spitz, head of distribution at Lionsgate, which now also owns the “Twilight” franchise after its purchase of Summit Entertainment.”

The impressive revenue also earned the film several other honors, says Jen Chaney of Celebritology:

With just a single weekend under its belt, “The Hunger Games” is already very close to becoming the biggest hit of 2012.

The Lorax,” which has been in wide release for three weeks, remains the year’s top grosser with $177.3 million in its pro-environment pockets. Expect it to hand over that title to “The Hunger Games” sometime during the next week.

“The Hunger Games” has already earned roughly 2.5 times as much money at the North American box office as “John Carter” has during the past two weeks.

And it did so with a budget well below half of what it cost to make “John Carter.” If only Disney had spent less money and handed Taylor Kitsch a bow and arrow, things could have turned out differently.

The earnings are great news for Lions Gate Entertainment, the production company behind ‘Hunger Games.’ The company bought Summit Entertainment in January, effectively bringing the other teenage smash “Twilight” under the same roof as Collins’s hit, the Associated Press reports:

These two movies could generate about $450 million in profit combined, estimates Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz. The adventures of bow-wielding heroine Katniss Everdeen alone could translate to 6 to 7 years of higher earnings, Creutz says, adding that Lions Gate may post its first profit in five years when its fiscal year ends on March 31.

More than two-thirds of Lions Gate’s revenue comes from the movie business, so its first blockbuster means a lot. It had been getting by with staples like Tyler Perry comedies and the “Saw” horror series.

The rest of Lions Gate’s revenue comes from television productions such as “Mad Men,” which kicked off its fifth season Sunday. Although the company doesn’t reap ad revenue from the hit TV show, success with audiences keeps it in demand as a production company. It also boosts sales of DVDs and licensing revenue from reruns.

The opening figures are also good news for films featuring female action heroes. The success may inspire Hollywood to make more films with female leads, according to Christopher Palmeri:

“The Hunger Games,” which set a record as the biggest opening ever for a non-sequel, illustrates how Hollywood under- appreciates audiences’ acceptance of female action heroes, according to Phil Contrino, editor of researcher

“People were hungry for something like this,” Contrino said in an interview. “Now everyone will be looking for the next ‘Hunger Games’ instead of every male-driven, Will Smith action film,” he said, referring to the star of “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.”

“The Hunger Games” may go on to capture $400 million domestically, according to Contrino.

The movie, which stars 21-year-old Jennifer Lawrence as an arrow-slinging killing machine, sold $59 million of tickets outside the U.S. and Canada, and was first in almost all of its 67 markets, Vancouver-based Lions Gate said yesterday in a statement.

More on ‘The Hunger Games’:

Review: ‘The Hunger Games’ brought faithfully, if un-spectacularly, to life

Katniss versus Bella: There’s room for both heroines, but who’ll be remembered?

Train for the ‘Hunger Games’ with archery, cake-decorating and hiking the Appalachian trail

Photos: Fashion in ‘The Hunger Games’

‘The Hunger Games’ world premiere red carpet photos

Video: Stars and fans at the world premiere