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Twentieth Century Fox’s prequel X-Men: First Class shot to the head of the class with a $56 million debut at the domestic box office, enough for the studio to proclaim that a new era has begun for its marquee superhero franchise.
Overseas, First Class grossed $64 million from 74 countries for a worldwide bow of $120 million. First Class came just shy of beating Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($69.4 million), however, although it didn’t have the benefit of playing in key territories Japan and Germany.
First Class and a cadre of strong holdovers helped fuel a bumper weekend at the domestic box office, with revenues up a welcome 30% over the same frame a year ago.
Warner Bros.’ The Hangover Part II came in No. 2 in its second weekend, falling 62% to an estimated $32.4 million for a total $186.9 million, according to Rentrak. The R-rated comedy had been expected to take a steep dip, considering its mammoth launch over Memorial Day.
Hangover did stellar business overseas for an American comedy, earning $62 million in its second weekend from 53 countries for a foreign total of $151.5 million and a whopping worldwide cume of $338.4 million. The comedy beat First Class in several markets, including the U.K.
A number of films hit milestones over the weekend, including Universal’s Fast Five, which became the first film of 2011 to cross the $200 million mark domestically. The action pic’s cume through Sunday was an estimated $202 million.
Two films jumped the $100 million mark; Universal’s sleeper hit Bridesmaids and DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s Kung Fu Panda 2. And Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sped towards the $800 million mark, ending the weekend with a worldwide total of $790.7 million.
Other stand outs included Sony Pictures Classics’ Midnight in Paris, which placed No. 8 for the weekend, although playing in only 147 theaters. The Woody Allen film grossed $2.9 million for a stellar location average of $19,838 and cume of $6.9 million.
Domestically, Fox said Matthew Vaughn’s First Class—costing close to $140 million to produce after tax credits–achieved its goal in matching the $54.5 million opening of the first X-Men. Dune Entertainment and Ingenious were Fox’s co-financing partners on the movie.
More bullish box office observers had expected First Class to hit $60 million in its debut, but Fox always kept its projections in the $45 million to $55 million range.
“The movie really excelled in successfully launching a brand new chapter in the X-Men franchise, or new beginning if you will,” Fox senior vice president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson said.
It’s always risky rebooting a franchise with new stars who may not have the same box office might as others. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, returning Hugh Jackman in the role of Wolverine, was able to open to $85.1 million two years ago, although it was widely criticized by critics.
Conversely, First Class received strong notices. And from moviegoers, First Class received a B+ CinemaScore, which could portend good word of mouth (as an example, the superhero pic fell only 5% from Friday to Saturday, a lower drop than any preivous X-Men pic).
Males made up 58% of the audience, while 54% were over the age of 25.
First Class has a decidedly different feel than its predecessors. Set in the 1960s against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War, First Class introduces Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) just as they’re discovering their mutant powers.
Instead of relying on A-list Hollywood stars, Fox instead turned to a cadre of up-and-coming actors to play the young mutants. Starring opposite McAvoy and Fassbender are Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult and Zoe Kravitz. Kevin Bacon plays the villain.
Kung Fu Panda 2 placed No. 3 for the weekend at the domestic box office after First Class and Hangover, falling 49% to an estimated $24.3 million for a total $101.5 million. Overseas, the 3D toon grossed $40 million in its second frame for an international cume of $125 million and worldwide total of $226.5 million.
On Stranger Tides placed No. 4 domestically, followed by Bridesmaids, which grossed an estimated $12.1 million for a cume of $107.3 million.
At the specialty box office, Mike Mills’ dramedy Beginners, starring Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor, opened to an estimated $135,200 from five theaters for a solid per screen average of $27,038. Focus Features is distributing the film, about a son who learns his father his gay, in the U.S.
Quirky coming-of-age British drama Submarine, executive produced by Ben Stiller, fell below its desired mark in grossing $40,754 from four locations for a per location average of $10,189. The Weinstein Co. said it believes the film will grow its audience.
Among specialty holdovers, Fox Searchlight’s The Tree of Life, from Terrence Malick, saw strong numbers as it expanded to 20 theaters in top markets, grossing $620,772 for a location average of $31,030 and 10-day cume of $1.3 million.
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