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'Bridesmaids' Surprises: Women Rule Box Office

Kristen Wiig, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Bridesmaids
Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston, Kenneth Branagh's Thor topped the North American box office for the second straight weekend, May 13-15, grossing $34.5 million (-47 percent) according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Thor's sizable 60%-64 percent Friday drop (depending on whether or not you include the previous week's Thursday midnight screenings) was considerably attenuated on Saturday, when the Paramount/Marvel adventure flick soared an estimated 66 percent. Thor passed the $100m milestone that day; its domestic total to date is $119.25m.

Thor's top foreign markets are Australia, which happens to be Chris Hemsworth's native country, the United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Russia, China, South Korea, Brazil, Spain, and Italy. Worldwide total: $317.66m. Cost: $150m.

Aided by generally excellent reviews, Paul Feig's Bridesmaids collected $24.4 million at no. 2. Most pundits had been expecting a $15-$20m take for the Universal release featuring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm, Rose Byrne, and Jill Clayburgh's last film appearance.

At 2,918 locations, Bridesmaids scored a solid $8,365 per-theater average vs. Thor's (3D-assisted) $8,706. Bridesmaids cost a reported $32.5m.

For comparison's sake: Kate Hudson-Ginnifer Goodwin opened last week with $13.94m; Patrick Dempsey-Michelle Monaghan's Made of Honor opened in May '08 with $14.76m; Anne Hathaway-Kate Hudson's Bride Wars opened in January '09 with $21.05m; and Tina Fey-Amy Poehler's Baby Mama opened in April '08 with $17.4m. (I've refrained from comparing Bridesmaids to Judd Apatow's male-oriented comedies.)

Photo: Universal Pictures

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Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig
Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne,Bridesmaids

Kenneth Branagh's Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, and Tom Hiddleston, topped the North American box office for the second consecutive Friday, grossing $9.1 million on May 13 according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

That represents a 64 percent drop from a week ago – or about 60 percent if one excludes the $3.3 million the film earned at Thursday midnight screenings. Even so, Thor should pass the $100m milestone some time today.

Yet, the real box office success story on Friday was that of Paul Feig's Bridesmaids, which collected $7.83 million at no. 2, and should end up with more than $20m for the weekend. Most pundits had been expecting a $15-$20m take.

At 2,918 locations, the extremely well-received comedy had the highest per-theater average among the top-twelve movies: $2,685 vs. Thor's (3D-assisted) $2,296.

Bridesmaids features Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm, and Rose Byrne, who now has two films among the top twelve, Insidious being the other. Bridesmaids also marks Jill Clayburgh's last film appearance.

Women, in fact, fared surprisingly well on Friday – something unusual at any time of the year, especially during the "official" summer season. Besides Bridesmaids, four other top-twelve films are centered on women: Something Borrowed (Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson), Jumping the Broom (Paula Patton, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine), Soul Surfer (AnnaSophia Robb), and Prom (Aimee Teegarden).

Three others have central or near-central female roles: Thor (Natalie Portman), Water for Elephants (Reese Witherspoon), and Rio (Anne Hathaway's she-bird) – not to mention Madea's Big Happy Family (Loretta Devine, Cassi Davis, Shannon Kane, Tyler Perry in drag).

For comparison's sake: at this time last year, the only top-eleven* movie (more or less) centered on female characters was Letters to Juliet (Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave). Only four others had major female roles: Date Night (Tina Fey), The Back-up Plan (Jennifer Lopez), Just Wright (Queen Latifah), and, to some extent, A Nightmare on Elm Street (Rooney Mara).

* At no. 12 on the chart, Babies is a documentary.

Photo: Universal Pictures

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Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids

With an estimated $9.2 million on Friday, May 13, Thor may end up with $32 million for the weekend as per Deadline.com. That's about a 63 percent drop from last Friday, and 50 percent from last weekend. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston, Thor cost a reported $150m.

Opening with stronger numbers than many had predicted, Paul Feig's Bridesmaids, featuring Kristen Wiig, collected about $8.5 million on Friday and may reach $23 million by Sunday evening. Many pundits had been expecting the well-received comedy to earn less than $20m.

Fast Five was down one spot at no. 3 with $6 million on Friday. It was followed by newcomer Priest, a 3D action/horror flick based on a Korean graphic novel. Starring Paul Bettany and Twilight's Cam Gigandet, Priest drew an estimated $5.5 million on Friday and may reach $15 million over the weekend.

Vying for fifth place were Something Borrowed, with Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin, and Jumping the Broom, with Paula Patton and Angela Bassett.

Something unusual for the "summer" season: films featuring women in major roles – I'm including Natalie Portman's Thor here – took up four of the top six spots at the North American box office on Friday.

Remember: These are rough, early estimates. Official studio estimates will be posted Saturday. Official weekend estimates come out on Sunday. Weekend box office actuals will be released on Monday.

Photo: Bridesmaids (Universal Pictures)

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