The superhero epic “X-Men: The Last Stand” proved magnetic over the Memorial Day weekend, taking in $120.1 million, the biggest opening ever for the holiday weekend.
Preliminary estimates also gave the latest installment of the comic book franchise the fourth best three-day opening ever and the best single Friday in movie history with a gross of $45.5 million.
The film’s box office was the second-biggest one-day gross ever after last year’s “Star Wars: Episode III.”
The movie exceeded expectations, including those of 20th Century Fox, which released it.
“Wow,” said Bruce Snyder, head of distribution at 20th Century Fox. “It blew my expectations away. It’s rarefied air.”
The film was embraced by audiences despite mixed reviews and fears about what would happen to the franchise when director Brett Ratner, best known for the buddy-comedy “Rush Hour” movies, took over the from Bryan Singer, who is directing this year’s “Superman Returns.”
The movie’s climactic tale of a drug company developing a “cure” for the mutants appealed across the board.
“There was something for everybody to relate to,” Snyder said. “That’s what makes ‘X-Men’ crackle as it does. Everyone has these feelings of being a little bit different.”
The “X-Men” films have done increasingly well at the box office. The first film did $54.5 million in its opening weekend in 2000, while the second installment took in $85.6 million in its three-day bow in 2003.
While moviegoers flocked this weekend to see the exploits of mutants such as Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), they also came out to support the two other big summer films, the religious thriller “The Da Vinci Code” and the animated family film “Over the Hedge.”
“Da Vinci,” starring Tom Hanks, was the second-highest grossing film of the four-day weekend with $43 million, down 56 percent from last week’s impressive opening weekend.
The DreamWorks Animation film “Over the Hedge” took in $35.3 million, down 30 percent from last weekend.
This year’s box office revenue for the top 12 films is running about 6 percent ahead of last year, and potential blockbusters such as the Pixar Animation film “Cars” and “Superman Returns” are on the horizon.
“I think this puts to bed the notion that people don’t want to go to movies anymore,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
“The combination of ’Da Vinci Code’ and ’X-Men’ proves that people really love to go to the movies, especially in the summer.”
Last year saw a slump in box office revenue and fears were kindled this year when the first two big films of the summer, “Mission:Impossible III” and “Poseidon” opened lower than expected.
The Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” also made an impressive debut over the weekend.
Playing on only four screens in New York and Los Angeles, the film from Paramount Vantage, about the dangers of global warming, took in an estimated $365,787 from Friday to Monday — a per screen average of $91,447.
“Not only are superheros big right now, but global warming as a topic is really hot as well,” Dergarabedian said.