Box Office Report: Friday Returns Show 'Wolverine' Headed for $65 Million Debut

9:16 AM PST 07/26/2013 by Pamela McClintock
Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox
"The Wolverine"

UPDATED: The "X-Men" spinoff -- returning Hugh Jackman in the title role -- is on course to score one of the best openings of the summer season; "Fruitvale" is making a strong showing as it expands nationwide.

Fox and Marvel's The Wolverine is headed for a $65 million North American debut based on early Friday returns, one of the best showings of the season and ending a worrisome losing streak for big-budget tentpoles.

The movie opened in theaters everywhere Friday morning after rolling out in select theaters Thursday night, grossing a tidy $4 million. Insiders say the pic is doing exceptionally strong business overseas, where it opens day-and-date in most of the world.

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Wolverine was directed by James Mangold, with Hugh Jackman returning in the title role (the two worked together previously on the 2001 romantic adventure Kate & Leopold). The film opens four years after X-Men spinoff X-Men Origins: Wolverine played in theaters, opening to $85.1 million in early May and grossing $373.1 million worldwide.

Wolverine's long-term outcome should be boosted by strong reviews; X-Men Origins was roundly bashed by critics.

Set sometime after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan (Jackman) has renounced his superhero powers and is living as a recluse in the Yukon. However, he's drawn back into the world when a Japanese man he once saved requests to become immortal. He also asks that Logan protect his granddaughter.

Fox spent just under $120 million to make Wolverine after tax rebates, a fairly reasonable number for a superhero pic.

Wolverine is the only new major release this weekend.

There is, however, a flurry of activity at the specialty box office, including the launch of Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine is six theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Sony Pictures Classics, Allen's longtime distribution partner, is releasing the film in the U.S.

CBS Films' raunchy comedy The To Do List, starring Aubrey Plaza, also opens in 591 theaters. The $1.5 million film is expected to do $2 million for the weekend.

Two other specialty films -- coming-of-age dramedy The Way, Way Back and Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station -- both expand nationwide.

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Fox Searchlight's The Way, Way Back, starring Steve Carell, Toni Colette and Sam Rockwell, expands from 304 theaters into more than 800. Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who wrote the script for The Descendants, the pic has earned a strong $4.6 million to date.

Fruitvale Station, from The Weinstein Co., expands from 34 theaters into more than 1,000 in its third weekend after earning $1.3 million and is eyeing a stellar weekend debut in the $5 million range. The critically acclaimed film is prospering in both art house and African-American theaters and recounts the real-life shooting of an unarmed young black man by a BART police officer in Oakland. The film has drawn numerous parallels to the Trayvon Martin case.

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