“Thor: The Dark World,” the superhero sequel from Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US)’s Marvel studios, placed first in U.S. and Canadian theaters this weekend, collecting $86.1 million.
“Thor,” part of Marvel’s potent constellation of box-office superheroes, faced little competition. “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” the comedy from Paramount Pictures (VIAB:US), was second in its third week, taking in $11.3 million, Rentrak Corp. (RENT:US) said in an e-mailed statement today.
The new film outsold its 2011 predecessor, which had sales of $65.7 million in its debut. The film’s performance underscores the impact of last year’s “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Disney’s highest grossing film ever. “Thor” was projected to take $97 million by BoxOffice.com.
“A lot of people talk about the decline of superhero movies, but that’s just not the reality of the audience,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. “Superhero films are the standard by which all other potential blockbusters are measured these days.”
One “Avengers” character has already returned for a solo spin in theaters. “Iron Man 3,” released in May, is the top-grossing movie this year with $1.22 billion worldwide, with almost double the sales of “Iron Man 2.”
“It’s a trickle-down effect,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst for researcher BoxOffice.com. “Iron Man 3 came after it and did extremely well and now ‘Thor’ is benefiting too. It’s a text book case of brand-building the right way.”
Its debut this weekend gives “Thor: The Dark World” the fourth-highest domestic opening this year, behind “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel,” from Warner Bros, and “Fast & Furious 6,” from Universal Pictures, which took $97.4 million in its opening in May, according to Rentrak. The film is a record for a Disney November opening and is the biggest non-summer release for Marvel.
Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, acquired Marvel, the comic book and movie company in December 2009 for $4.2 billion.
In July, Disney said it bought the rights to the first two “Iron Man” movies, “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” held by Viacom Inc.’s Paramount. The move gives Disney more control over Marvel’s film library as it expands the characters into its television shows and theme-park attractions.
Last week, Disney said it will produce four Marvel superhero TV series for Netflix Inc. (NFLX:US), the online-streaming service, in a multiyear deal. The Burbank, California-based company also plans a sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
Battle for Earth
In “Thor,” Chris Hemsworth returns as the title character. He battles to save Earth and the Nine Realms from the Dark Elves, newly emerged from hibernation and armed with a long-buried, universe-destroying substance. Thor’s challenge is complicated when his love interest, played by Natalie Portman, is infected with the substance. Thor must also contend with his scheming brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston.
RottenTomatoes.com, a review aggregator site, gave it a 66 percent fresh rating.
“It’s a review-proof movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “Fans just want to have fun watching it. Anytime a Marvel movie opens it’s like a behemoth.”
Old Guys in Vegas
Among returning films, “Jackass,” from Paramount, retained its second-place spot. Starring Johnny Knoxville, the movie is the fourth since 2002 based on the “Jackass” MTV reality series.
The animated “Free Birds” from Relativity Media placed third, with sales of $11.2 million, up from fourth in its debut last
“Last Vegas,” which follows three 60-something friends who throw a bachelor party for their buddy, played by Michael Douglas, took fourth, down from third last weekend. It collected $11.1 million for CBS films.
“Ender’s Game,” based on the science-fiction novel about a child warrior, dropped to fifth from first, collecting $10.3 million for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. “Catching Fire,” the next installment of Lions Gate’s “The Hunger Games” franchise, is scheduled for release next weekend.
Best Picture Frontrunner
Two films in limited release, “12 Years a Slave” and “About Time,” expanded to more cinemas this weekend.
“12 Years a Slave,” from Fox Searchlight and British director Steve McQueen, is an adaptation of an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup. The movie, which has drawn rave reviews, collected $6.6 million this weekend.
“About Time,” a romantic comedy about a time traveler, stars Domhnall Gleeson and is directed by Richard Curtis. It took $5.2 million for Universal Pictures.
“These films have been playing for a few weeks now and they really are starting to catch some of the multiplex magic,” said Bock of Exhibitor Relations. “‘12 Years a Slave’ is going to be a frontrunner for best picture, so it’s going to be in the top 10 for some time.”
Weekend revenue for the top 10 films fell 0.5 percent to $158.7 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Revenue this year is up 0.4 percent to $9.07 billion.
The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Nov. 8-9 and estimates for today.
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