"The Wolverine."
"The Wolverine."

Although Twentieth Century Fox's "The Wolverine," the week's sole wide opener, performed a good deal below predictions, the overall weekend was encouraging as the uneven (and very expensive) summer continues to play out. Grosses for the top 10 came in at around $152 million, a big jump from last year's $124 million (where the #1 film was the second weekend of "The Dark Knight Rises"). Decent-grossing newcomer "The Wolverine" played its part, but the overall strength comes from several films holding well (the #2-6 films dropped between 36 and 48% from last weekend). With several significant August openings ahead, the summer could still end up ahead of last year's, but not likely quite enough to boost the year total. 

Beyond the Top Ten, in which Weinstein's expanding "Fruitvale Station" scored a slot, several other less wide releases are showing good reaction. Fox Searchlight's "The Way, Way Back" ended up #11 with $3.3 million in 886 theaters, having already grossed almost $9 million. CBS Films opened their teenage coming-of-age film "The To Do List" at a narrower 591 theaters with a $1,535,000 result for a passable $2,597 per screen average; if it builds good word of mouth this low-budget film could turn into a success. 

The biggest news though came from Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett, whose "Blue Jasmine" opened in six New York/Los Angeles theaters for a year's best opening average of over $100,000 per screen ($613,000 total), better even that Allen's major 2011 success with "Midnight in Paris." (Stay tuned for full details in Arthouse Audit.)

1. The Wolverine (20th Century-Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 61

$55,000,000 in 3,924 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $14,016; Cumulative: $55,000,000

To put things in context, this marks the 9th biggest weekend opener of 2013. Compared to "Star Trek Into Darkness," which opened to $70 million earlier in this incredibly crowded sci-fi/fantasy genre summer with somewhat better reviews, "The Wolverine" is weak, especially as it had the benefit of opening with no first weekend competition.  The past "X-Men" series history includes the $85 million opening -- absent the 3-D boost for this entry -- for Hugh Jackman's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." This gross is about the same as the non-Jackman "X-Men: First Class" two years ago, which led pre-opening predictions for this go round to be closer to $75 million. Thus, a clear disappointment at home. But the initial international returns - $86 million, for a combined total of $141 million, are more encouraging.

The production, though expensive ($120 million), falls below some of the other superproductions of the summer. It is by far the biggest opening for James Mangold, whose last film "Knight and Day" thrived internationally to reach $261 million, and whose earlier films include "3:10 to Yuma" and "Walk the Line." Hugh Jackman scored his biggest non-"X Men" success with "Les Miserables" earlier this year. 

What comes next: Foreign for series' entries has come in as just a bit better than domestic, but the heavy Asian cast and setting for this one might help boost its draw in China and Japan, the second and third biggest markets in the world, which are still to open. If domestic word of mouth is decent and this can triple its opening weekend (the normal gauge of an successful hold) and foreign can increase, this could still end up as a success for Fox. The next entry is already in production, and they hope to continue the series into the future.

2. The Conjuring (Warner Bros.) Week 2 - Last weekend: #1

$22,130,000 (-47%) in 3,022 theaters (+119); PSA: $7,323; Cumulative: $83,867,000

The second weekend outgrossed the production cost. Had that been the opening gross, Warner Bros. would have been thrilled. The drop was much less than normal for a horror film, making these results even more rosy.