'X-Men' explodes with $120 mil

“X-Men: The Last Stand” used Wolverine’s claws this weekend to slice through plenty of domestic box office records.

Fox’s superhero sequel grossed an astounding $120.1 million over four days. “X-Men” beat the previous Memorial Day weekend record — $96 million for the official second weekend of “Shrek 2″ in 2004 — in just three days.

Pic’s Friday-Sunday gross of $103.1 million is the fourth-highest opening weekend of all time, behind only those of “Spider-Man,” “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” and “Shrek 2.”

Opening-day gross of $45.5 million is the best Friday in Hollywood history and the second best single day, behind only “Sith’s” $50 million opening Wednesday.

“X-Men” bow was the biggest of 2006, beating the $77.1 million “Da Vinci Code” opening by Saturday.

Foreign estimates for Monday weren’t available, but through Sunday, “X-Men” had a worldwide take of $179.2 million — very strong, but well behind “Da Vinci’s” $231.8 million worldwide debut the previous weekend.

During the second highest grossing Memorial Day frame ever, Al Gore’s environmental docu “An Inconvenient Truth” also set several records, doing boffo biz in limited release.

“Truth” grossed a fantastic $365,787 at just four theaters in New York and L.A.; its $70,585 per play gross over three days is the highest average take for any pic this year, the highest average for any pic over Memorial Day weekend and the highest-ever average for a documentary.

Cume since its Wednesday opening is $489,336.

Paramount Classics will expand the heavily hyped Al Gore starrer to between 60 and 75 theaters in the top 10 markets next frame and continue to widen it throughout June.

“Over the Hedge” held on very well for its second frame, but “The Da Vinci Code” was caught in the mutant steamroller and dropped a sizable 56%.

While “X-Men: the Last Stand” was tracking strongly and industryites had high expectations, few expected it to be this big, easily surpassing “X2’s” opening gross of $85.6 million in early May 2003.

Pic averaged $27,947 over three days at 3,690 playdates.

Fox distribution prexy Bruce Snyder boasted that an average that high is usually the province of a hit arthouse pic playing 10 theaters. “For us to do $120 million while ‘Da Vinci’ and ‘Over the Hedge’ are both working, all I can say is wow,” he said.

Only negative news may be the actioner’s sizable Friday-Saturday drop of 29%. Most pics grow from Friday to Saturday, or fall only slightly, given the advantage of matinees. Though it’s explained in part by $5.9 million from midnight screenings Thursday night, such a big slump usually indicates poor word of mouth. Also, Sunday’s $25.5 million gross was about $4 million less than the studio was estimating that morning.

A big second frame decline is thus likely. But with nearly $200 million in domestic grosses by next weekend a virtual lock, Fox execs won’t be shedding too many tears.

More likely, they’ll be talking to their partners at Marvel about the next step for the franchise, since “Last Stand” was supposed to be the final film in a trilogy.

“The first reaction, which we should discard, is here comes ‘X-Men 4,’ ” said Marvel studios topper Avi Arad. “We’re working on ‘Wolverine,’ which is definitely a continuation, and we have a very interesting script about a young Magneto.”

As for “Code,” after a four-day gross of $43 million, adaptation has a very healthy cume of $145.5 million domestically.

Over three days, pic had a per-play average of $9,057 at 3,754 theaters.

Tom Hanks starrer grossed $124.9 million worldwide this frame, bringing global cume to a massive $465 million.

“We’re on the way to half a billion dollars (worldwide) next weekend,” noted Sony distribution prexy Rory Bruer. “You can’t be anything but happy about that.”

The only pics that didn’t seem to feel the heat from “X-Men” were those aimed at tots. “Over the Hedge” had a very healthy hold, dropping only 30% from its $38.5 million bow. DreamWorks Animation toon grossed $35.3 million over four days, bringing total take to $84.4 million. Strong legs puts “Over the Hedge” on a pace similar to that of 2004’s “Shark Tale,” which cumed $160.8 million.

It will likely see a big drop in two weeks, however, when Disney/Pixar toon “Cars” opens.

“Over the Hedge” had a three-day average take of $6,566 at 4,093 plays. Sony’s “RV,” the other family pic in the market, also continues to hold amazingly well, declining only 18% on a three-day basis and taking $5.3 million over the frame. With a $57.2 million cume, Robin Williams starrer could more than quadruple its $16.4 million bow five weeks ago.

Sony Pictures Classics expanded docu “Sketches of Frank Gehry” from eight to 18 plays and grossed a weak $54,035, over $2,308 per play on a three-day basis. Cume is $117,832.

Overall, the frame was up 4% from last year’s Memorial Day, according to Nielsen EDI. Year-to-date, 2006 box office is leading 2005 by 3%.

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