Successfully launching a new superhero franchise, Paramount and Marvel Studios opened 3D tentpole Thor to a strong $66 million at the North American box office, according to estimates. Overseas, the 3D pic is already an unqualified hit, bringing Thor’s worldwide gross to $242 million.
Thor may not have done Iron Man numbers, but it easily bested the first installments of other Marvel properties X-Men, Fantastic Four and The Hulk (2008), all of which opened in the $55 million to $56 million range, according to Rentrak. Iron Man debuted to $98.1 million in May 2008.
Overseas, where the movie bowed first, Thor has earned an impressive $176 million in 11 days — already better than the lifetime international gross of fellow X-Men and Fantastic Four.
Historically, Hollywood studios open summer movies in the U.S. first, largely for publicity reasons and to show foreign distributors that a film can work. Paramount’s move was risky, but it paid off.
“When you look at the Marvel brand, to be at this level of success on a global level is certainly a great story,” Paramount vice chair Rob Moore said. “It was also a great move on Marvel’s part to go with Kenneth Branagh and Chris Hemsworth.”
Fanboys over age 25 fueled Thor in North America. A full 72% of the audience was over that age, and 63% were males.
Teens and younger adults have been noticeably missing from the multiplex, a worrisome trend that continued with Thor and could explain why the film didn’t open higher.
On this weekend last year, Iron Man 2 opened to $128.2 million. Without those kind of numbers, this frame was down 10% from 2010.
Thor did big business in Imax theaters, where the movie took in $6.6 million from 213 locations, representing 10% of the weekend gross.
The loss of Imax screens to Thor was at least part of the reason why Fast Five fell more than expected in its second weekend. The Universal film slipped 62% to an estimated $32.5 million for a domestic cume of $139.9 million in its first 10 days. Entering the weekend, most expected Fast Five to gross $35 million or more in its second outing. The action pic likely lost older males to Thor.
Internationally, however, Fast Five was the weekend winner as it expanded into a total of 58 markets, grossing an estimated $86.6 million for an international cume of $184.8 million and worldwide total of $324.7 million.
Fast Five was expected to capture the overseas race because of its expansion, up from 14 markets last weekend. Thor, grossing $46 million for the weekend, has already opened in most of those markets. Like Thor, Fast Five opened first overseas, although in only a handful of markets.
While Thor and Fast Five went after males, females fueled two new comedies.
Sony’s Jumping the Broom overperformed in its debut, grossing an estimated $13.7 million to come in No. 3.
Targeting African-American moviegoers, Jumping the Broom received an A CinemaScore grade across all categories, a rarity. Women represented 70% of those buying tickets, while 64% of the audience was over the age of 35.
It’s unusual for a Hollywood studio to launch an African-American theme pic in summer. Jumping the Broom’s strong start proved a successful counterprogramming move.
Jumping the Broom’s ensemble cast includes Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Mike Epps. Salim Akil directed the comedy, which centers around two families from two very different environments who gather on Martha’s Vineyard for a wedding.
The comedy cost less than $7 million to produce.
“It will be very successful, and kudos to everyone involved,” Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer said. “We’ve known all along that the film was a great crowd-pleaser.”
The weekend’s other femme-driven comedy was Something Borrowed, which met expectations in grossing $13.2 million from 2,904 locations to come in No. 4. The comedy, distributed by Warner Bros., was fully financed by Alcon Entertainment (The Blind Side).
Something Borrowed stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, John Krasinski and Colin Egglesfield. Hilary Swank is a producer on the film, which is based on the book by Emily Giffin.
Females made up 73% of the audience, while 65% were over the age of 25. Something Borrowed received a B CinemaScore overall, although women gave it a B+.
“It’s a nice little niche film for us,” Warner Bros. executive vp distribution Jeff Goldstein said.
Both Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom are expected to benefit from Mother’s Day.
Fox’s 3D toon Rio rounded out the top five at the domestic box office, grossing an estimated $8.2 million in its fourth weekend for a cume of $114.9 million. Overseas, the movie took in another $16.2 million for a dazzling international cume of $292.3 million and worldwide total of $407.2 million — the first film of 2011 to clear $400 million globally.
The other high-profile opening of the weekend was Jodie Foster’s The Beaver, which launched in a limited run. Headlining Mel Gibson, the drama got off to soft start for Summit Entertainment, grossing an estimated $104,000 from 22 locations in top markets for a per-screen average of 4,745.
Foster directed The Beaver and stars in the film alongside Gibson, Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence. The specialty film cost $21 million, with much of the budget covered through foreign presales.
The Beaver, about a man’s transformation through the use of a puppet, makes its international premiere this month at the Cannes Film Festival, where it plays out of competition.