"Thor: The Dark World" brought down the hammer this weekend, thundering to No. 1 at the U.S. box office with a estimated $86 million.
Disney's Marvel superhero sequel rode the wave of momentum from last year's "The Avengers" - as "Iron Man 3" did earlier this year - to the year's fourth-biggest opening. It didn't match the U.S. debuts of those two Marvel films, the biggest-ever at $207 million and $174 million respectively, but the $170 million 3D epic blew past the first weekend of the pre-"Avengers" original "Thor."
That one opened to $65 million in May of 2011 and went on to take in $450 million worldwide in 2011. With $94 million from overseas this weekend, "The Dark World" has brought in more than $327 million in two weeks, and will out-earn "Thor" by a wide margin. It opened No. 1 in China with nearly $20 million this weekend, better than "The Avengers."
The $32 million that "The Dark World" took in on Saturday topped the $31 it did on Friday, which included $7 million in Thursday early shows, a very positive development in the eyes of Disney's distribution chief Dave Hollis.
"It's positive word of mouth, but it also shows the momentum and breadth behind the Marvel brand, as it's crossing over into family business," Hollis told TheWrap. "With about half the country off on Monday for Veteran's Day, we're hoping Sunday will be higher than normal, too."
"The Dark World" received a boost from Imax and 3D, which represented more than 80 percent of the market-high 3,841 theaters it played in. But it wasn't huge, with 39 percent of the grosses coming from 3D and roughly 12 percent from Imax. All of the top ten theaters for "The Dark World" featured Imax.
Audiences gave the PG-13-rated film, which stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Portman, an "A-" CinemaScore. They were more impressed than the critics, who have it at respectable 67 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. It played older -- more than 62 percent of the audience was over 25 -- and 62 percent male. It was a great date movie, with 62 percent of its crowd made up of couples.
The "Dark World" opening is behind only "Iron Man 3" ($174 million), "Man of Steel" ($116 million) and "Fast and Furious 6″ ($97 million) this year. It's also just behind the $88 million that the James Bond thriller "Skyfall" opened to on this weekend last year.
There were no other wide openers and "The Dark World" dominated, taking in more than the rest of the top ten combined.
Last week's No. 1 movie, "Ender's Game," fell to fifth, behind surprisingly resilient "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," the animated "Free Birds" and the geriatric comedy "Last Vegas." The battle for second was so close that it won't be determined until actual numbers come in Monday.
"Bad Grandpa" brought in a estimated $11.3 million, and the raunchy R-rated comedy starring Johnny Knoxville upped its domestic total to nearly $79 million after three weeks for MTV Films and Paramount.
"Last Vegas," which stars Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, was at an estimated $11.1 million, and has now brought in $33.5 million for CBS Films in two weeks. The older-skewing comedy's three-day total was off just 32 percent from its debut.
"Free Birds," a Reel FX Animation family movie distributed by Relativity Media, had the smallest drop from last week of any film. It also took in $11.1 million, down just 29 percent from its opening last weekend, and has now brought $30 million overall.
The sci-fi adaptation "Ender's Game" was targeting the same crowd as "The Dark World" and suffered as a result. It fell a steep 62 percent from its first weekend and has taken in $44 million domestically for Summit Entertainment so far.
Fox Searchlight expanded its Oscar front-runner "12 Years a Slave" from 410 to 1,144 theaters nationwide, and it took in a $6.6 million. That's a solid $5,769 per-screen average, for the slavery drama directed by Steve McQueen.
But Warner Bros.' "Gravity," which remained in 2,720 theaters in its sixth week, continued to top the awards hopefuls. The Sandra Bullock-George Clooney space saga raised its domestic total to $231 million by bringing in $8.4 million over the three days and its global total is more than $440 million.
Sony's Tom Hanks piracy saga "Captain Phillips" added $5.8 million and is on its way to $100 million domestically, with $91 million in its fifth week.
Universal went wide with its romantic comedy "About Time" and the Richard Curtis time-travel tale brought in $5.1 million from 1,200 theaters. It played best with older women, with 71 percent of its crowd women and 56 percent over 40 years of age. Its domestic total is $6.7 million, but it has brought in more than $38 million overseas.
Fox rolled out "The Book Thief" in two theaters in New York and two in L.A. and it brought in $108,000 for a strong $27,000 per-screen average.