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'Wolverine' opening biggest of '09

Jackman prequel is the second biggest opening of the four X-Men features; McConaughey's "Ghost" disappoints at $15 m

Marking a potent kickoff to a summer full of potential blockbusters, Fox's “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” clawed its way to $87 million over the weekend.


The three-day tally for the Gavin Hood-directed film, including midnight Thursday shows, represents 2009's highest box office opening weekend; “Fast and Furious” opened in March with $70.9 million. The blockbuster pushed the only other notable competitor out of the way; "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" took in a mediocre $15.3 million.


“Wolverine” also made $73 million overseas.


“Wolverine’s” haul began with a $35 million Friday opening and marks the second-biggest opening weekend of the four “X-Men” movies, the third biggest opening ever for Fox and the fourth biggest May opening.


“X-Men: The Last Stand,” which grossed $122.8 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend in 2003, remains the biggest debut for Fox. "Last Stand" is also the biggest May debut, followed by “Iron Man’s” $98 million last year and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park's” $90.2 million in 1997.


Fox senior VP Chris Aronson kept expectations in check last week, telling TheWrap that the studio expected “Wolverine” to gross $70 million this weekend in the U.S.


“It’s fantastic. It’s a great number,” Aronson said on Sunday. “One hundred and sixty million in three days is just fine.”


The demographic split was just about even; Aronson said 53 percent of “Wolverine’s” audience was male and 52 percent were over 25.


"Wolverine" marks the official launch of the summer box office, Hollywood's biggest season. Next week, Paramount will release "Star Trek," and Columbia will unspool "Angels & Demons" the week after.


So the big question facing Fox now is how “Wolverine” will weather the attack of all the summer biggies.


“I think we’ll take a hit that’s normal, but ‘Wolverine’s’ word of mouth is very good,” said Fox’s Aronson. “We’ll withstand it just fine.”


Everything else got out of "Wolverine's" way. New Line’s “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” was obviously a counter-programming move.


“Ghost” star Matthew McConaughey's previous comedies “Failure to Launch,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “Fool’s Gold” opened with $24, $23 and $21 million, respectively, but none of them faced off against a tentpole.


Another weak performer continues to be "State of Play." Universal's adult drama, starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. It came in at no. 10, with a $3.7 million take in its third weekend. 


This weekend’s results are almost a mirror image of May 2-4 last year, when “Made of Honor” landed in No. 2 with $14.7 million opposite “Iron Man.”


Sony/Screen Gem’s “Obsessed” followed “Ghosts” in the No. 3 spot with $12.2 million -- a 57 percent drop from its $28.6 million opening last weekend. Warner Bros.’ “17 Again” stayed strong in its third week of release, coming in at No. 4 with $6.3 million. DreamWorks Animation's “Monsters vs. Aliens” rounded out the top five with $5.8 million.


Roadside Attractions’ first foray into animated 3D, “Battle for Terra,” debuted at No. 12 with $1 million.