Henry Cavill's darker 'Man of Steel' reinvigorates the Superman franchise. (Photo: Clay Enos, Warner Bros. Pictures)
Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
Look, up in the sky: It's a franchise reborn.
After a failed attempt to revive the Superman series in 2006, the son of Krypton finally took off in theaters as Man of Steel snared $113.1 million this weekend, according to studio estimates from box office trackers Hollywood.com.
Steel scored the highest opening on record for a movie opening in June, beating 2010's Toy Story 3, which opened to $110.3 million.
The debut was $25 million more than most analysts forecast and gave the series plenty of momentum for a sequel, which Warner Bros. announced last week, though a release date hasn't been set. The movie, which opened Thursday, has done $125.1 million in four days.
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Analysts say the nine-figure bow would likely give the studio enough reason to justify a trilogy.
"Anything over $100 million means the franchise is back," says Jeff Bock, vice president and chief analyst of Exhibitor Relations. "The studio gave the movie the right tone for today's audiences - something dark."
The debut dwarfs the opening of 2006's Superman Returns, the $270 million Bryan Singer film that was meant to resuscitate the franchise. And while that film would go on to do $200 million, the movie left critics and fanboys wanting, and the series quietly went back into the studio vault.
This time around, director Zack Snyder and star Henry Cavill scored with audiences, if not critics.
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While reviewers were split on the the $225 million movie - about 57% gave it a thumbs-up, say pollsters Rottentomatoes.com -- 82% of moviegoers said they liked it, the site says.
Distributor Warner Bros. ensured the film would rack up premium surcharges, as 80% of the theaters showing the movie were in 3-D and IMAX.
But "this is without a doubt a very strong start for a non-sequel," says Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo.
The Seth Rogen comedy This Is the End scored a box office victory, as well, collecting $20.5 million, good for second place and eclipsing most analysts' projections, which hovered around $15 million.
Critics and fans were both behind the stoner comedy, as 85% of reviewers and 87% of fans said they would recommend it, Rottentomatoes.com says.
The magician-caper film Now You See Me continued its strong run, taking third place with $10.3 million.
Fast & Furious 6 took fourth place with $9.4 million, while the horror film The Purgewas fifth with $8.2 million. Final figures are due Monday.
Steel helped lead the industry's midseason box office surge. Ticket sales and attendance, which were once 10% behind last year's pace, are now down less than 5%, according to Hollywood.com.