‘X-Men: First Class” Solid $56M Debut Leads Suddenly Hot Box Office

Critically lauded franchise reboot hits its pre-release forecast; overall market up 30% over the same weekend last year

Leading a suddenly hot domestic box office this weekend, Fox's "X-Men: First Class" got off to a solid $56 million three-day start, according to studio data.

The Matthew Vaughn-directed franchise reboot beat Fox's conservative prediction of around $50 million, while matching outside forecasts of $55 million – $60 million.

The fifth X-Men movie — shot for around $160 million with a completely overhauled cast that was minus franchise lead Hugh Jackman, and produced by Bryan Singer, director of the first two installments — also grossed $64 million opening in 74 international territories.

The film had a total global opening of $120 million.

Here's how the top 10 finished. Full report continues below chart:

"We had a number of challenges to reboot this movie, but we had a very stylish director and a very young talented group of actors who are on their way to being household names because they're that good," said Chris Aronson, executive VP of distribution for Fox.

Overall, the domestic box office was up about 30 percent over the same weekend last year, with three films grossing more than $20 million.

Down over 20 percent at one point, the domestic box office is now only off about 9.7 percent.

"All systems are go right now," Aronson added. "It helps if you have movies people actually like."

The hit parade included Todd Phillips comedy sequel "The Hangover Part II," which grossed an estimated $33.9 million in its second weekend, a 61 percent drop from its record-breaking Memorial Day run, but still good enough for second place at the domestic box office.

DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 2" dropped just under 50 percent in its second weekend, grossing $24.3 million and passing the century mark ($100.4 million) domestically.

A week ago, the $66.7 million five-day holiday opening for "Panda 2" disappointed DreamWorks investors — and traders of 3D technology stock, too. But the film grossed $40 million playing at 9,104 theaters in 28 foreign markets this weekend, so profitability won't be an issue.

Likewise, in third place, Disney's fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie caught flack for a soft 3D opening last month, but its global numbers are massive.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" grossed an estimated $18 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend (a 55 percent drop), while adding $69.4 million to its international bounty.

The film has grossed $790.7 million globally to date.

While Universal had two films cross big thresholds this weekend — "Bridesmaids" added $12.1 million to reach $107.3 million domestically, and "Fast Five" added $3.2 million to reach $202.1 million — there was also big news in the indie film realm.

Most notably, Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" finished in seventh place this weekend, grossing $2.7 million while expanding from 58 to 147 locations. The Sony Classics-distributed film has grossed $6.8 million to date.

Meanwhile, Terrence Malick's Palme d'Or winner "The Tree of Life" expanded from four to 20 locations this weekend, grossing $620,772 while averaging a solid $31,039 per outlet.

In terms of limited openings, Weinstein's British-coming-of-age comedy "Submarine" grossed an estimated $40,754 playing at four locations.

"The bright side is that we did go up 67 percent from Friday to Saturday, which indicates our word-of-mouth was pretty good," said Weinstein distribution chief Erik Lomis.

Also opening this weekend, Focus Features' Mike Mills-directed drama "Beginners," which stars Ewan McGregor, grossed an estimated $135,193 playing at five theaters for a very respectable $27,038-per-screen average.

Finally, opening at four locations, Anchor Bay's Shawn Ku-directed Toronto Film Fest pickup "Beautiful Boy" grossed a weak $16,100.

But the big story this weekend was "X-Men: First Class," which forsook the potent but tiring leadership of actor Jackman, as well as past X-Men directors including Brett Ratner, for an origins narrative and a new cast that included James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Kevin Bacon, Nicholas Hoult and Oliver Platt.

By X-Men standards, "First Class'" $56 million was the lowest opening since the first X-Men movie grossed $54.5 million out of the gate back in July 2000.

But Fox will live with that, given the fact that its latest movie arrived with exceptional critical acceptance (87 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and decent word-of-mouth (B-plus grade from movie audience satisfaction survey firm Cinemascore).

Fox's Aronson compared the opening to the $48.7 million start for "Batman Begins" in 2005, a franchise reboot that was placed on the backs of a then-somewhat-unknown director in Christopher Nolan, and a still somewhat unestablished star in Christian Bale.

Of course, the duo's next film, "The Dark Knight," went on to gross more than $1 billion at the global box office.

"We hope this is similar to that," Aronson said. "This is an unqualified success for us."