"Thor" and "Fast Five" power box office sales

Sun May 8, 2011 1:59pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The God of Thunder reigned at the North American box office as "Thor" became the latest Marvel comic book superhero to leap to the big screen.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, the Marvel comic book 3D adaptation sold about $66 million worth of tickets during its first three days of release across the United States and Canada, in line with industry forecasts.

It ranks as the second-biggest opening of the year, a week after "Fast Five" set a new record with its $86 million start.

The films traded places internationally, with "Fast Five" earning $87 million during the weekend and "Thor" $46 million.

The action duo is leading Hollywood's tentative recovery from a dismal year that has seen North American ticket sales plunge about 14 percent. But the industry hopes to gain more ground in coming weeks with new sequels for "Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Hangover" and "Kung Fu Panda."

"Thor," starring Australian actor Chris Hemsworth in the title role, was directed by Kenneth Branagh, a British actor and filmmaker best known for his deft handling of Shakespearean material.

Critics generally approved of the movie, and movie-goers polled by the survey firm CinemaScore gave it a solid B-plus rating, according to Paramount. Men accounted for almost two thirds of the audience.

But its $66 million opening fell far short of the first installments of other movies in the Marvel stable, such as 2002's "Spider-Man" ($115 million) and 2008's "Iron Man" ($99 million).

'FAST FIVE' TOP 2011 RELEASE   Continued...

<p>Cast member Chris Hemsworth poses for photographers on the red carpet at the world premiere of the film 'Thor' in Sydney April 17, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz</p>