"The Wolverine" dominated the U.S. box office over the weekend, but the estimated $55 million haul for the Hugh Jackman superhero movie was less than distributor Fox had hoped for.
It didn't come close to matching the $85 million three-day debut 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," and could wind up being the lowest domestic opening in the six-film "X-Men" franchise. "X-Men: First Class" debuted to $55.1 million in 2011 and the original "X-Men" opened to $54.4 million back in 2000.
But the Marvel comics-inspired "Wolverine" was a force overseas this weekend. It opened in 126 countries — every major market except Japan and China -- and brought in $86 million, the best foreign opening for an X-Men movie ever. And Its $141 million in first-weekend global grosses surpasses its $115 million production budget.
The significance of the international number in today's market can't be underestimated; Hollywood's biggest films typically take in roughly 70 percent of their grosses from overseas these days. "The Wolverine" finds Jackman's mutant loner in Japan where he takes on the Yakuza and grapples with the loss of his healing powers.
With its Tokyo setting and cast that includes Japanese stars Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima and Hiroyuki Sanada, "The Wolverine" should have strong appeal throughout Asia. It doesn't yet have a date in China, but will debut on Sept. 13 in Japan, where much of it was filmed. Production was delayed by 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami off the coast.
Since it was the only wide opener in the U.S. and in a market-high 3,924 theaters, 3,063 of which offered 3D, Fox had hoped for a three-day total in the $65 million range.
"The Wolverine" hit its demographic targets, with an audience that was 58 percent male and 42 percent under 25. The "A-" CinemaScore from first-night audiences and the foreign numbers took away any sting from the soft domestic figure for Fox's president of distribution Chris Aronson.
"Hugh (Jackman) and (director) James Mangold delivered a terrific movie and the way it was received globally was really spectacular. We're looking forward to the next couple of weeks because we know it's going to play well," he said.
The multiplexes were busy — up by more than 25 percent over the same weekend last year — but many moviegoers did some catching up on films already in release, and five holdover films dropped off less than 50 percent.
Last week's No. 1 movie "The Conjuring" was second with $22 million, followed by family films "Despicable Me 2" at $16 million and "Turbo" with $13.5 million, "Grown Ups 2" at $11.5 million and "Red 2" with $9.4 million.
While underwhelming, the opening by "The Wolverine" is the best live-action opening since "The Man of Steel" debuted to $116 million back in June, and breaks a four-week run in which big-budget movies "White House Down," "The Lone Ranger," "Pacific Rim" and "R.I.P.D." all belly-flopped at the box office.
The 47 percent second-week fall-off for "The Conjuring" is exceptional for a horror film; they typically take a tumble once genre fans have seen them.
But Summit's scream-fest, produced for roughly $20 million, has been very well-reviewed and word-of-mouth is strong, and it is now up to $84 million domestically after two weeks.
"Despicable Me 2" keeps rolling up the box office dough. The animated kids film crossed the $300 million mark domestically in its fourth week and is now the second-highest grossing movie of the year, behind only "Iron Man 3." And it has brought in more than $660 million worldwide for Universal and Illumination Entertainment.
DreamWorks Animation's family film "Turbo" couldn't catch the minions despite dropping just 36 percent from its first week, and the snail tale has now taken in $56 million in two weeks of domestic release for distributor Fox.
Sony's Adam Sandler comedy "Grown Ups 2" crossed the $100 million mark in its third week, and beat out Lionsgate's action comedy "Red 2' for fourth.