LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Comic book movie "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" slashed its rivals at box offices over the weekend with a $160 million worldwide debut, leaping to No. 1 on ticket charts in a solid start to Hollywood's summer.
The action adventure, starring Hugh Jackman as the heroic Wolverine who wields long claws as his weapons, raked in $87 million in the United States and Canada and helped push total ticket sales just slightly ahead of the same weekend last year, according to tracking service Hollywood.com Box Office.
Landing at No. 2 on domestic box office charts with $15.3 million was romantic comedy "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," starring Matthew McConaughey. Last week's No. 1, thriller "Obsessed," dropped to third place with a weekend haul of $12.2 million for a cumulative total of $47 million in two weeks.
But it was "Wolverine" that lured the vast majority of fans to theaters. It was widely watched as the first major film of the studio's summer movie season that runs through August and can account for 35 to 40 percent of the annual ticket sales.
The $87 million domestic box office for "Wolverine" was lower than the $98.6 million debut of last year's No. 1 film, "Iron Man,' and box office trackers had estimated an opening in a range of $85 million to $100 million.
But Chris Aronson, senior vice president of domestic distribution at "Wolverine" backer Twentieth Century Fox, said the studio was guiding industry watchers lower for reasons that included the movie being the fourth in the "X-Men" series.
"I'd been telling people that at anything over $70 million, we were going to be very happy," he said.
Moreover, Aronson said "Wolverine" enjoyed the second biggest domestic opening for an "X-Men" movie behind "X-Men: The Last Stand," which posted a $102 million debut in May 2006 and eventually earned $459 million globally.
The four movies in the "X-Men" series have combined for more than $1.1 billion in ticket sales around the world.
SALES TOPPED PRODUCTION COSTS
The Fox executive said ticket sales of $73 million in 101 markets outside the United States and Canada brought the global haul to $160 million. He called that figure "fantastic," and noted it topped the movie's production cost of around $130 million.
Aronson said "Wolverine" may have been affected by other issues including the flu outbreak that shut theaters in Mexico, where "Last Stand" took in $6 million at its debut.
In the United States, Aronson said, a Saturday night professional basketball game between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls likely reduced moviegoing in those cities. In Boston, ticket sales were off around 21 percent and in Chicago, they were down about 30 percent.
Finally, an early and unfinished copy of "Wolverine" had leaked on the Internet and may have kept some fans away. But the true impact of Web watching is hard to calculate. "I don't know that we'll ever know" the effect, Aronson said.
Rounding out the top five movies were comedy "17 Again" with $6.4 million ($48.5 million cumulative) at No. 4, and animated "Monsters vs. Aliens" with $5.8 million ($182.4 million cumulative) at No. 5.
Twentieth Century Fox is a unit of News Corp. Warner Bros. is part of Time Warner Inc. "Obsessed" was distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment unit Screen Gems. "17 Again" was distributed by Warner Bros., and "Monsters vs. Aliens" by DreamWorks Animation.