Box Office: 'Thor 2' Hammers Home $86.1 Mil Domestic Debut, Hits $327 Mil Globally

UPDATED: The 3D tentpole -- returning Chris Hemsworth in the title role -- is enjoying "The Avengers" halo effect; "12 Years a Slave" does solid business in nationwide expansion, while "Captain Phillips" crosses $90 million.

Marvel Studios and Disney's Thor: The Dark World thundered its way to a $86.1 million domestic launch as it continued its global assault, finishing the weekend with a sizeable $327 million in worldwide ticket sales.

That's an impressive start considering the first Thor, which debuted to $65.7 million domestically in May 2011, grossed $449.3 million globally in all. The sequel nabbed one of the top November openings of all time in North America, although it couldn't quite match the $88.4 million earned by Skyfall on the same weekend a year ago.

The 3D tentpole -- returning Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-wielding superhero -- has grossed $240.9 million internationally, where it began rolling out last weekend. It is pacing a whopping 90 percent ahead of the original title, which topped out at $268 million internationally (Thor 2 has already eclipsed the $192 million earned by Captain America: The First Avenger). Russia leads with $24.1 million, followed by the U.K. with $22.6 million and China (where it opened Friday) with $19.6 million.

The movie is doing big business in Imax theaters, which generated $11 million in global ticket sales.

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Thor 2, like Iron Man 3, is benefiting from 2012 global blockbuster The Avengers, the crown jewel in Marvel's superhero film empire. The Avengers, which features Hemsworth as Thor and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, among other Marvel characters, earned $1.5 billion worldwide to become the No. 3 film of all time behind Avatar and Titanic.

For the first time in Marvel's The Avengers series, Thor 2 grossed slightly more domestically on Saturday than on Friday ($31.7 million versus $31.6 million) in a major victory for Marvel and Disney's marketing operation. Usually, Friday is by far the biggest day because of the fanboy audience.

"It played in an unconventional way," said Disney's distribution chief Dave Hollis. "The franchise is moving away from just fanboys and crossing into the mainstream in a way that makes out-of-school, out-of-work Saturday shows super lucrative. The combination of storytelling and a very successful, inspired marketing campaign made it appeal to the broadest possible audience."

Thor 2 played to all quadrants of the moviegoing audience and quickly transformed into a date-night movie, with couples making up 62 percent of the audience. Families made up 21 percent of those buying tickets, and teens, 17 percent. All told, 39 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25, and 61 percent over. The sequel nabbed an A- CinemaScore, compared to a B+ for the first Thor.

Females made up an impressive 48 percent of Friday's audience -- a larger percentage than usual for a superhero pic -- but by Sunday, males made up 62 percent of the overall weekend audience.

Thor 2 takes place one year after the events of The Avengers, as Thor reunites with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and tries to save his planet from a mysterious enemy. Thor also forms an uneasy alliance with his adoptive brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Kenneth Branagh directed the first Thor, while the sequel is from filmmaker Alan Taylor.

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Most films shied away from opening opposite Thor 2, but in a counterprogramming move, both 12 Years a Slave and About Time are making major expansions this weekend.

Steve McQueen's awards favorite 12 Years a Slave made a daring move in upping its theater count from 410 to 1,144. The harrowing slave drama grossed a solid $6.6 million, putting it at No. 7 and pushing its domestic total past $17.3 million for Fox Searchlight and the producers. The movie continues to over-index among African-Americans.

"There was such momentum, we figured we had to get it out there," said Searchlight distribution chief Frank Rodriguez. "We are going to add even more theaters next weekend."

Richard Curtis' About Time wasn't as lucky. The Working Title film, distributed by Universal, earned $5.2 million as it increased its location count to 1,200 for a ninth-place finish and tepid $6.7 million domestic gross.

Among holdovers, Paramount's Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa continued its dazzling run, coming in No. 2 in its third weekend after grossing $11.3 million for a domestic total of $78.2 million. Relativity Media's 3D animated offering Free Birds and CBS Films comedy Last Vegas followed in quick order. Free Birds grossed $11.2 million in its second weekend for a North American total of $30.2 million, while Last Vegas took in $11.1 million in its second outing for a total $33.5 million.

Ender's Game placed No. 5, earning $10.3 million for a domestic total of $44 million.

Among awards contenders, Sony's Paul Greengrass drama Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks, crossed $90 million in its fifth weekend, grossing $5.8 million for a total $91 million.

The Metropolitan Opera's The Met: Live in HD scored solidly with Saturday's live broadcast of Puccini's Tosca in 800 North American theaters, grossing $2.3 million.