Box Office: 'Thor: The Dark World' Tops Friday Domestic Chart With $31.6 Million

UPDATED: The 3D tentpole returns Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-wielding superhero.

Marvel Studios and Disney's Thor: The Dark World topped the North American box office Friday with $31.6 million, putting the 3D tentpole on course to hit $80 million in its domestic debut.

The sequel -- returning Chris Hemsworth in the title role -- is luring more females than most superhero films. Women and teen girls made up 48 percent of Friday's audience, compared to only 40 percent for Iron Man 3 earlier this year.

Thor 2 is opening notably ahead of the first Thor, which debuted to $65.7 million in May 2011 on its way to grossing $449.3 million globally. It also got a better CinemaScore, nabbing an A-, compared to a B+.

Launching last weekend overseas, Thor 2 should near or cross $300 million in global ticket sales by Sunday. The movie's international total through Thursday was already $152.8 million.

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Thor 2, like Iron Man 3, is expected to benefit from 2012 global blockbuster The Avengers, the crown jewel of 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.

Iron Man 3 debuted to $174.4 million in May and boasts the top opening of 2013 so far. That film took in $15.6 million in Thursday night runs.

Thor 2 is sparking interest among all quadrants of the moviegoing audience. Interest is high among younger females for a superhero film, likely due to Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, who likewise returns for the follow-up alongside Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba. Thor 2 is also tracking well among Hispanics.

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

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

The record opening for early November is currently held by Skyfall, which debuted to $88 million on the same weekend a year ago. The Twilight Saga: New Moon is the record-holder for best November opening with $142.8 million. (The franchise installment opened on Nov. 20, 2009).

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 is expected to gross $6.5 million for the weekend, putting it at No. 7 and pushing its domestic total past $17 million for Fox Searchlight and the producers.

Richard Curtis' About Time isn't as lucky. The Working Title film, distributed by Universal, is expected to earn $5 million as it increases location count to 1,200 for a ninth-place finish and tepid $6.5 million domestic gross.