LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The fifth movie in the "X-Men" series took the No. 1 spot at the worldwide box office after selling about $120 million worth of tickets, distributor 20th Century Fox said on Sunday.
"X-Men: First Class," a relaunch of the Marvel comic book franchise, opened at No. 1 across the United States and Canada with $56 million -- fulfilling the studio's expectations, even if some analysts were predicting a $60 million start.
Its international tally of $64 million from 74 markets included about 30 No. 1 debuts, including Britain ($9 million), France ($7.7 million), Mexico ($5.3 million) and Brazil ($4 million).
"X-Men" was the No. 2 pick overseas, behind "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" with $69.4 million.
Even though the North American opening was sharply lower than most of the earlier films in the "X-Men" franchise, it all but guarantees there will be more films revolving around the exploits of a stable of mutant superheroes.
"We have successfully launched a brand new chapter of this franchise," said Chris Aronson, senior vice president for domestic distribution at the News Corp unit.
"X-Men: First Class," which reportedly cost about $160 million to make before tax credits, is a prequel dealing with the formative years of the future superheroes. Both critics and fans hailed the new direction.
Instead of hiring A-list talent, Fox went with critically acclaimed British director Matthew Vaughn ("Kick-Ass") and actors James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. The cast also includes recent Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence, "Mad Men" actress January Jones and Kevin Bacon.
McAvoy and Fassbender play the lead roles originated by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in 2000's "X-Men" and two sequels. A 2009 spinoff "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," starring Hugh Jackman in the title role, opened to $85 million in North America. Jackman has a cameo in the new film.
"HANGOVER" STILL RAGING
As the only new release in the North American top 10, "X-Men: First Class" pushed the rest of the films one place lower in the rankings.
Last weekend's champion, "The Hangover: Part II," grossed $32.4 million, taking its 10-day total to $186.9 million. The raunchy comedy is well ahead of the pace of its 2009 predecessor, which earned $105 million at the same time and ended up with $277 million.
"Kung Fu Panda 2" followed with $24.3 million in its second weekend and "Pirates of the Caribbean" brought in $18 million in its third weekend.
With respective totals of $100.4 million and $190.3 million, they are lagging their predecessors. The first "Kung Fu Panda" cartoon had earned $117 million at the same time in its run and the third "Pirates" had raced to $253 million.
But Johnny Depp's latest high-seas adventure is doing much better overseas with sales to date of $600 million.
"Bridesmaids," the only nonsequel in the top five, rounded out the top tier with $12.1 million in its fourth weekend. The acclaimed distaff comedy has earned $107.3 million to date.
"The Hangover: Part II" was released by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc. "Kung Fu Panda 2" was produced by DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc and distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" was released by Walt Disney Co. "Bridesmaids" was released by Universal Pictures, a unit of NBC Universal, which is controlled by Comcast Corp.
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Bill Trott)