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‘Snow White’ rising at Friday box office

Universal tentpole on track for roughly $55 million weekend

UPDATE:Snow White and the Huntsman” is faring better than expected at the U.S. box office, with Friday afternoon returns pacing the Universal fairy tale actioner at $19 million to $21 million for the day and $50 million to $56 million for the weekend.

The numbers are a good sign for U, which downplayed expectations Thursday for the big-budget tentpole, projecting a mid-$30 million weekend that would have undoubtedly meant June gloom for the studio. But “Huntsman” came on strong with $1.38 million in midnight runs Thursday from 1,092 locations, a performance buoyed by “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart, whose fans are known to show up early.

Co-starring Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth, “Huntsman” was critical for Universal, which just two weeks ago suffered through a dismal $25 million domestic bow for “Battleship.” Reviews for “Huntsman,” the $170 million-plus 2D tentpole, were mixed while early tracking also suggested a lack of interest among males. Still, “Snow White” accounted for half of Fandango’s ticket sales Thursday and the late-night showings indicate Stewart’s “Twilight” resume, combined with strong female tracking, are working in the fairy tale’s favor.

“My little girls are dying to see this movie,” one exec at a rival studio says, warning that the imminent arrival of “Madagascar 3” and “Prometheus” could take a bite out of Snow White’s apple.

Produced by Joe Roth, “Snow White and the Huntsman” launches today in 3,722 theaters Stateside and 45 territories internationally.

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