Thor Whacks Off Box-Office Race

“Thor” definitely knows how to swing that big and impressive hammer he’s constantly playing with.

We’ve just had the first official weekend of the Summer movie going season, though last week’s $86.2 million massive opening for “Fast Five” will likely shift that title to the last weekend of April in the future.

Every year since 2007 has seen a major superhero film open on this first weekend of May and 2011 was no different with the launch of “Thor”. This was an untested property, marketing reaction hadn’t been a slam dunk and the lead actor Chris Hemsworth wasn’t well-known outside of Australian and UK soap fans.

Then the film opened early overseas and scored both very good reviews and strong box-office with the international gross already fast approaching $200 million. This is an especially rare phenomenon considering comic book movies are one of the few genres that don’t do as well globally aside from a half dozen key titles.

Now it has hit the U.S. and brought in a solid haul of $66 million. That number makes it the eleventh highest opening for a superhero film – behind “The Dark Knight”, the three “Spider-Man” movies, the two “Iron Man” movies, the last three “X-Men” movies and “The Incredibles”.

It did open higher than “Hancock,” both incarnations of the Hulk, the first “X-Men”, “Watchmen,” the “Fantastic Four” films, “Superman Returns” and “Batman Begins”. With the combined added value of the 3D surcharge and inflation, this is being seen as on par with the Hulk films for Marvel – good starts but not stellar enough to immediately green light a sequel. Strong overseas sales, good word of mouth and disc sales however will likely make up any perceived shortfall.

With the exception of the first film, the “Fast and Furious” movies generally drop off considerably in their second weekend and “Fast Five” maintained that record with a $32.5 million estimated haul – down 62.3% from last week. The low budget African-American class warfare comedy “Jumping the Broom” exceeded expectations with a $13.7 million opening, doubling its production budget in its opening weekend alone.

Four limited release films fizzled. The Jodie Foster-directed Mel Gibson movie “The Beaver” did the best with a disappointing $4,700 per screen average followed by the Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington relationship drama “Last Night” with a $3,200 per screen haul. The Opus Dei-exploring war time story “There Be Dragons” took just $2,660 per screen while the heavily panned Mickey Rourke fantasy drama “Passion Play” stunk with a $2,060 opening weekend total haul from two screens.