Chris Hemsworth in "Thor: The Dark World"
Chris Hemsworth in "Thor: The Dark World"

Led by a strong performance by 3-D enhanced "Thor: The Dark World," overall grosses came in about equal to last year, keeping pace with the 2012 year-to-date total. (2013's top ten grossed $159 million against $161 million last year.) With $86,109,000 for the weekend, "Thor" came in just behind "Skyfall"'s stellar opening last year, but the heavy lifting came from the rest of the top 10. 

Other than the seriously collapsing "Ender's Game" (big fall from #1 last week), a wide variety of films -- mostly appealing to older audiences, with some animated features also showing strength -- combined for a robust total gross even though no other film grossed more than $12 million (last year three totaled $16 million or more).

It remains to be seen if November will match 2012's stellar take (including "Skyfall," the final "Twilight" entry, "Lincoln" and "The Life of Pi"), but results so far look promising.

1. Thor: The Dark World (Buena Vista) NEW - Cinemascore - A-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 54

$86,109,000 in 3,841 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $22,418,000; Cumulative: $86,109,000

This Marvel "Thor" sequel is already up to $241 million worldwide (where it opened some territories last week), which puts it less than $30 million below what the initial 2009 entry took in. With domestic just starting and several large territories still to come, this is clearly another hit for the Marvel/Disney combine. Coming after Thor played a prime role in "The Avengers," this clearly seems to be riding on the momentum of that global blockbuster.

But this film also seems to have some unexpected strength of its own. Saturday ended up grossing about the same as the combined two-day Thursday/Friday figure, bigger than what seemed likely. Although this gross didn't reach the $100 million some had expected, it still managed to be the fourth-best of the year, and more impressive, it comes outside a summer or holiday playtime.

At a $170-million budget plus sizable global marketing costs, these numbers are what the film needed to meet. Interestingly, audience surveys (which report a solid A- Cinemascore) indicate that 61% of the audience is over 25 (once again, the 18-24 demo seems to be underperforming). And despite apparent female interest in stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, 62% of attendees were male. Comic book hero fans seem to hold on to their interests as they age, which may be a big part of the Marvel (as well as D.C. Comics staples like "Batman" and "Superman") appeal.

Marvel steered this to a more sophisticated feel. Alan Taylor ("Palookaville," "The Emperor's Clothes") has spent most of his career directing high-end cable, mainly for HBO (most recently "Game of Thrones," an Emmy for "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under," "Sex and the City," as well as "Mad Men" and many others. Among "Thor"'s credited screenwriters are two Emmy-winners for "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers." Reviews weren't stellar, but audiences continue to connect with the extra attention Marvel producer Kevin Feige ("The Avengers" and all of the "Iron Man" films) gave to this project.

What comes next: This will be unchallenged for #1 next weekend, though "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" should open much bigger the following week. Still, this will play into December and, like "Gravity," end up somewhere in the $250 million + domestic area, with international more than doubling that number.