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'Wolverine' claws past ghosts to claim weekend box office crown

Actor Hugh Jackman poses at the UK Premiere of "The Wolverine" at Leicester Square in London July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
Actor Hugh Jackman poses at the UK Premiere of "The Wolverine" at Leicester Square in London July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

By Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - "The Wolverine," starring Hugh Jackman as Marvel Comics' sharp- clawed superhero, slashed its way to $55 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales to claim the box office crown in a summer that hasn't been kind to some other big-budget action films.

"The Conjuring," the low-budget horror film that led last weekend's box office, slipped to second place with $22.1 million in domestic sales from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates. The film has generated nearly $84 million in overall ticket sales, a surprisingly strong showing for a film that cost just under $20 million to make.

The animated film "Despicable Me 2," featuring the voice of comic actor Steve Carell, finished third with $16 million in ticket sales in its fourth week in movie theaters. The film was made by Universal Pictures and has collected more than $660 million in ticket sales around the world.

Animated film "Turbo," about a super-speedy snail with dreams of racing in the Indy 500, took the No. 4 slot with sales of $13.3 million. Ryan Reynolds provides the voice for the title character in the film produced by "Shrek" creator DreamWorks Animation.

"The Wolverine" fell short of Hollywood insiders' $72 million weekend estimates, the latest in a string of big-budget action films that failed to meet expectations, though it performed strongly overseas.

In recent weeks "R.I.P.D.," "Pacific Rim," "The Lone Ranger," and "White House Down" all fizzled at the box office.

"We're incredibly happy with this result," said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox, which distributed "The Wolverine."

"It's good news on a global scale, and this is a global business," Aronson said. The film took in more than $86 million internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $141 million.

"The Wolverine," which cost an estimated $120 million to make, stars Jackman in his sixth film as the ageless mutant, which is also featured in the "X-Men" movies. Those six films have generated $1.9 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to the movie site Box Office Mojo.

The latest chapter was the lowest opening film in the "X-Men" franchise since the first film opened with $54.5 million in 2000, and fell far short of the $85 million take for the first Wolverine film, 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Reviews were mixed to solid on "Wolverine," with a 68 percent positive rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes and the film received an A-minus CinemaScore rating based on moviegoers' input. Ticket site Fandango said the film grabbed 51 percent of advance sales, with 73 percent saying they would not want to see the film without Jackman in the lead role.

Aronson also pointed to the importance of the star as a huge draw at the worldwide box office. "We're going to be phenomenally successful at the end of the day," he said.

In limited release, comedy "The To Do List" earned just over $1.5 million from 591 theaters, close to its $1.5 million production cost. The movie stars Aubrey Plaza from NBC TV's "Parks & Recreation" as a high-school graduate who wants to lose her virginity before she heads to college.

"The Wolverine" was made by 20th Century Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox, which also distributed "Turbo." "The Conjuring" was released by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc. Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp, released "Despicable Me 2." "The To Do List" was distributed by CBS Films, a unit of CBS Corp.

(Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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