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    And the Oscar Bump Goes to…Wolverine!

    X-Men Origins: Wolverine Twentieth Century Fox

    Maybe Wolverine should thank the Academy. And Hugh Jackman.

    X-Men Origins: Wolverine rose above everything from swine flu to play-off basketball to gross $87 million at the weekend box office, its studio estimated. The debut was the year's biggest, and the fourth-biggest ever for a summer-season opener.  

    "We've had a lot of hurdles to overcome with this movie," 20th Century Fox's Chris Aronson said today. "At the end of the day, audiences have a huge appetite for Hugh."

    And was that appetite whetted by Jackman's appearance as Oscar host?

    "What other explanation is there?" Aronson asked. "That turn just made him that much more appealing."

    Especially among women.

    More than the previous three X-Men films, Aronson said, Wolverine's audience split almost evenly along gender lines: 53 percent of moviegoers were men; 47 percent were women. 

    And apparently fond of superheroes who can sing, dance and duet nicely with Anne Hathaway.

    Drilling down into the numbers:

    In foreign countries, minus swine-flu-stricken Mexico, natch, Wolverine took in $73 million, Fox reported. After three days, the reputedly $130 million movie's worldwide haul stands at $160 million. 

    Wolverine's string of bad breaks, not including bad reviews, included: a leaked print, the swine flu outbreak and the Chicago Bulls pushing the Boston Celtics into a game 7 play-off game. That last one was the most recent wrinkle. According to Aronson, Wolverine's box office was down 32 percent in Chicago last night as the Bulls played the Celtics. In victorious Boston, business was down 21 percent.

    Audiences seemed fully aware of Wolverine's bad buzz. But, in the end, per Fox's exit polling, nearly half of all moviegoers said the film was better than they expected.

    Among summer-season starters, Wolverine ranks behind Spider-Man 3 ($151.1 million), Spider-Man ($114.8 million) and last year's Iron Man ($98.6 million).

    Among X-Men movies, unadjusted for inflation, Wolverine ranks behind only X-Men: The Last Stand ($102.8 million).

    Ghosts of Girlfriends Past ($15.3 million) was, nearly dollar for dollar, this year's Made of Honor—and Matthew McConaughey's smallest romantic comedy debut since 2005's Two for the Money.

     Obsessed ($12.2 million) held up OK amid the summer crush. Ticket sales were down 57 percent from last weekend's No. 1 run. To date, the $20 million thriller has grossed $47 million overall.

    Monsters vs. Aliens ($5.8 million) topped $180 million; Coraline ($50,020) squeaked past $75 million.

    Fast & Furious ($2.7 million) fell out of the Top 10 after only four weekends, but a very big $150 million run—the best yet for the car franchise.

    Crank: High Voltage ($470,000) dropped—like a big, heavy rock—out of the Top 10 after only two weekends, and a disappointing $13.3 million run.  

    Hollywood's summer is only one weekend old, but it already has its first bomb: The 3-D CGI space adventure Battle for Terra, which opened at 1,162 theaters and made about $861 at each of them, for a grand three-day sum of $1 million. 

    In limited release, the new Jim Jarmusch movie, The Limits of Control, killed, grossing $54,233 at only three theaters. The new Michael Keaton movie, The Merry Gentleman (Keaton starred and directed), did all right, taking in $72,240 at 24 locations.

    Here's a complete look at the weekend's top-grossing films based on Friday-Sunday estimates as compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

    1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, $87 million
    2. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, $15.3 million
    3. Obsessed, $12.2 million
    4. 17 Again, $6.4 million
    5. Monsters vs. Aliens, $5.8 million
    6. The Soloist, $5.6 million
    7. Earth, $4.18 million
    8. Fighting, $4.17 million
    9. Hannah Montana: The Movie, $4.1 million
    10. State of Play, $3.7 million

    (Originally published May 3, 2009, at 9:24 a.m. PT)

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