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Signaling that the box-office malaise for tentpoles isn’t entirely over, 20th Century Fox and Marvel’s The Wolverine may only hit $56 million in its North American debut after slowing considerably Friday night to gross $21 million for the day.
The superhero pic is still easily in the lead, however, and certainly isn’t considered a bomb, though Fox was anticipating a $65 million opening, roughly on par with World War Z, which debuted to $66.4 million earlier this summer.
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 is doing huge business overseas, where it’s opening in much of the world. The movie’s long-term outcome should be boosted by strong reviews and a strong A- CinemaScore; 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 summer tentpole.
Wolverine is the only new major release this weekend.
There is, however, a flurry of activity at the specialty box office, including the outstanding launch of Woody Allen‘s Blue Jasmine is six theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The pic, headlined by Cate Blanchett, grossed roughly $175,991 on Friday, for a per-screen average of $29,332 — $5,063 ahead of Allen’s box-office hit Midnight in Paris.
Blue Jasmine is expected to earn roughly $550,000 for the weekend, putting its location average at nearly $93,000, by far the best of 2013 so far. Sony Pictures Classics, Allen’s longtime distribution partner, is releasing Blue Jasmine in the U.S.
Two high-profile specialty films are expanding nationwide this weekend: Fruitvale Station and coming-of-age dramedy The Way, Way Back.
Fruitvale Station, from The Weinstein Co., impressed on Friday, coming in No. 10 as it grossed $1.4 million from 1,030 locations. The critically acclaimed drama is expected to earn $4.6 million for the weekend, easily beating The Way, Way Back, which took in $970,000 Friday from 886 theaters for a projected $3.4 million weekend.
Fruitvale, directed by Ryan Coogler and now in its third weekend, is prospering in both art house and African-American theaters. It recounts the real-life shooting of an unarmed young black man by a BART police officer in Oakland. The film, which should end the weekend with a domestic cume of $6.3 million, has drawn numerous parallels to the Trayvon Martin case
Fox Searchlight’s The Way, Way Back, starring Steve Carell, Toni Colette and Sam Rockwell, is directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who wrote the script for The Descendants. The film, a Sundance Film Festival darling, should end its fourth weekend with a cume of $9 million.
Among other new specialty offerings, CBS Films’ raunchy comedy The To Do List, starring Aubrey Plaza, took in $590,000 from 591 theaters on Friday to place No. 14. The movie is anticipating a so-so debut of $1.8 million.
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