"Man of Steel," the first Superman movie in seven years, is flying past rivals and analysts' expectations and into the box-office record books. The superhero reboot took in a muscular $44 million Friday and is on pace for a three-day total in the $115 million range.
The total would give the Warner Bros.-Legendary Pictures epic the best-ever June weekend opening, topping the $110 million that "Toy Story 3" rang up in 2010, and the year’s second-largest opening behind only "Iron Man 3," which opened the summer at $174 million.
The Friday number includes $9 million from midnight shows, while a series of 7 p.m. corporate group sale screenings Thursday brought in an additional $12 million that could swell the domestic total to more than $130 million by the end of the weekend.
With Sony’s R-rated comedy "This Is the End" adding about $6.8 million Friday and looking at a $20 million three-day total, the weekend could be huge.
It’s on a $200 million pace, 60 percent ahead of last year, when "Madagascar 3" led the way with a $34 million second week.
Business is sure to be brisk on Saturday and Sunday for "Man of Steel." Audiences at a market-high 4,207 theaters gave it an "A-" CinemaScore grade. They liked it more than the critics; it has just a 58 percent positive rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.
Around 3,350 locations — roughly 80 percent of the total — are 3D and that number also includes 331 IMAX screens, so Warner Bros. is tacking on a hefty surcharge to many of the tickets it sells.
"Man of Steel" carries a hefty $200 million production budget, but Warner Bros. film chief Jeff Robinov is on record predicting it will be the biggest hit in the studio's history.
Warner's tapped "Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan to produce the film and "300" director Zack Snyder to handle the behind-the-camera work. It also assembled an impressive cast. Henry Cavill stars as Superman, Amy Adams plays Lois Lane, Russell Crowe plays Superman's biological father and Michael Shannon is the villainous General Zod.
The success of "Man of Steel" is critical to the studio’s long-range plans. Along with Batman, the Superman character is central to the DC Comics superhero aggregation the Justice League. If "Man of Steel" takes off, it will allow Warner Bros. to kick-start a franchise based on its own universe of superheroes and villains that could rival Disney’s pantheon of Marvel characters.
Superman's box-office muscles will be flexed abroad, as well. Warner Bros. is debuting "Man of Steel" in 24 foreign markets this weekend, including the U.K., South Korea and Mexico. Next weekend it will expand to another 26 territories, including major markets like China and Russia.
Seth Rogen's "This Is the End" will have taken in around $32 million — roughly its production cost — by Sunday, since getting a jump on the weekend with its Wednesday opening in 3,055 theaters.
The plot from Rogen and Evan Goldberg revolves around James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Michael Cera playing obnoxious versions of themselves and dealing with an end-of-the-world party. Rihanna, Emma Watson and Mindy Kaling make cameos.
Summit Entertainment's magic-themed heist thriller "Now You See Me" was running third, after a $3.3 million Friday — a 46 percent drop from last week — putting it on track for a $10.5 million third weekend. Universal's "Fast & Furious 6" followed and is looking at a $9 million fourth weekend, after taking in $2.7 million Friday.
Last week's No. 1 film, Universal's micro-budget horror thriller "The Purge," was fifth. it plunged nearly 83 percent from last Friday and took in $2.8 million, putting it on an $8.5 million pace for the three days. Fox's Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn comedy "The Internship" fell off 65 percent from its debut last Friday and is looking at $7 million weekend after bring in $2.2 million.
On their current pace, the rest of the top 10 will finish the weekend like this: "Epic" ($6 million), "Star Trek Into Darkness" ($4.5 million), "After Earth" ($3.5 million) and "The Hangover Part III" ($2.7 million).