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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Thor" reigned at the North American box office for the second straight weekend while the raunchy women's comedy "Bridesmaids" beat expectations to come in second.
According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, the Marvel comics 3D film "Thor," about the earthly adventures of the god of thunder, sold $34.5 million worth of tickets over the weekend while "Bridesmaids" brought in $24.4 million.
"The big news is that 'Bridesmaids' did much better than expected," said Paul Dergarabedian, head of tracking firm Hollywood.com Box Office.
Universal Pictures, the studio behind "Bridesmaids," had expected the film, which was produced by comedy powerhouse Judd Apatow on a budget of $32.5 million, to have an opening weekend more than $10 million lower than what it posted.
The movie, starring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, was unusual for a film geared to women because it had plenty of raunchy bits in typical Apatow film.
But it appears not only women took a shine to the film's gross-out moments but men also were drawn to a movie about the misadventures of a group of bridesmaids who see their friendship tested by the stress of a wedding.
"Men like this movie as much as women. Now the word of mouth will filter out that it's OK for a man to go see a movie called 'Bridesmaids,'" said Nikki Rocco, Universal Pictures president of distribution.
The action movie "Fast Five," in its third week at theaters, had a strong showing with $19.5 million and came in third, leaving fourth place to the action horror flick "Priest," which opened with a disappointing $14.5 million.
"Priest" is from Sony Pictures unit Screen Gems, a division of Sony Corp.
The animated 3-D movie "Rio" landed at fifth place in U.S. and Canada ticket sales, earning $8 million at box offices, with only a 6 percent drop from last week.
The movie, in its fifth week at theaters, was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp
"Fast Five," a movie about a heist and fast cars, dominated international sales over the weekend by earning $58 million overseas, according to Universal Pictures, the studio behind the film. Universal Pictures is a unit of Comcast Corp-controlled NBC Universal.
"Thor," which opened last weekend and stars the relatively unknown Chris Hemsworth, is distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. It had international sales of $27.5 million.
It has not performed as well as last year's Marvel comics movie "Iron Man 2" but that had been expected because Marvel long considered "Thor" to be one of its most hard-to-adapt properties, while "Iron Man 2" had the added benefit of A-list star Robert Downey Jr.
"Nobody expected 'Thor' to do 'Iron Man' type business," Dergarabedian said.
Overall, the North American box office was down about 3 percent this weekend from last year, its second drop in a row, hurt by its comparison to the strong ticket sales posted by "Iron Man 2," which was released about this time in 2010, Dergarabedian said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bill Trott and Chris Michaud