Hugh Jackman propelled 'The Wolverine' to No. 1 in its opening weekend. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
The Wolverine had plenty of bark at the box office, and just enough bite.
The sixth installment of the X-Men franchise clawed its way to $55 million this weekend, according to studio estimates from box office trackers Hollywood.com.
While the debut was plenty to win the weekend - there were no other major newcomers as studios cleared a path for the comic-book adaptation - the opening fell short of analysts' projections, which called for a bow of at least $65 million.
Still, it snapped the string of high-priced live-action films that couldn't claim the weekend crown. Last week, the $20 million horror flick The Conjuring opened to $42 million, crushing the $130 million supernatural film R.I.P.D., which debuted to a dismal $13 million. Similarly, Pacific Rim ($37 million), The Lone Ranger ($29 million) and White House Down ($25 million) opened well below projections, falling to cheaper movies and animated films.
While Wolverine's opening was solid for a sixth franchise installment, analysts wondered whether moviegoers are suffering mutant fatigue. The previous Wolverine film, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, debuted to $85 million.
"The concern with The Wolverine has been one of saturation," says David Mumpower of boxofficeprophets.com.
Wolverine's opening, Mumpower says, begs the question facing many established superheroes at the box office.
"Will audiences continue to support a character who is so well established by now and still be portrayed by the same actor?" Mumpower says. "The answer has proven to be a tepid yes."
But the new film resonated with viewers, which could help its run through a typically arid August at theaters. About 68% of critics gave Wolverine a thumbs-up, and the movie scored an A-minus from moviegoers, says grading site CinemaScore.
Wolverine was "a classic recipe for summer movie success: Take an A-list star and cast him in an extremely well-known role, not to mention a popular genre, and create a fantastic movie," says Dave Karger, columnist for online ticket broker Fandango. "The fact that it had the weekend to itself didn't hurt."
Among the holdovers, Conjuring took second with $22.1 million, followed by the animated comedy Despicable Me 2 with $16 million.
The animated Turbo was fourth with $13.3 million, while Adam Sandler's comedy Grown Ups 2 rounded out the top five with $11.5 million. Final figures are due Monday.