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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The new "Star Trek" movie beamed up an estimated $72.5 million in North American ticket sales its first weekend in theaters, dominating the box office and re-energizing a 40-year-old science-fiction franchise.
That figure far surpassed the opening grosses posted by any of the previous 10 "Star Trek" films, even when adjusted for inflation, and kept up a robust pace for the second week of Hollywood's summer moviegoing season.
Combined with $4 million grossed from Thursday evening's preview screenings, "Star Trek" tallied $76.5 million in U.S. and Canadian receipts through Sunday, according to its distributor, Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures studio.
Last weekend's top box office entry, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," still ranks as the biggest film opening so far this year, with $85 million in its first Friday-through-Sunday tally.
But the launch of "Star Trek" slashed deeply into "Wolverine's" second weekend of business, sending the superhero adventure from News Corp's NWSA.0 20th Century Fox to a second-ranked $27 million.
By comparison, "Star Trek" seems poised to hold fairly steady next weekend given that its ticket sales rose from Friday to Saturday, a sign of strong word-of-mouth buzz, said Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst for Hollywood.com.
The $130 million film ranks among the best reviewed movies of the year, and one of the most well-received by critics of all the "Star Trek" pictures.
Directed by J.J. Abrams, the latest film is intended as a "reboot" of the original 1960s television series, with updated special effects and a story line that explains how the crew of the galaxy-hopping Starship Enterprise, including Captain James T. Kirk and his half-Vulcan first officer, Spock, first met.
Leonard Nimoy, who originated the Spock character on TV, dons pointy ears again and even recites the Vulcan salutation, "Live long and prosper," for a featured appearance in the new movie as an elder Spock.
Despite early pre-release tracking data showing weak anticipation levels, the film seems to have won over both older "Trekkie" fans of the franchise and younger moviegoers on whom financial success depends, Paramount executive Don Harris said.
"The way this film is being received ... it looks like the movie will play long and prosper," he said.
"Wolverine," which stars Hugh Jackman reprising his role as the ferocious but conflicted superhero with steel claws, has received far-less glowing reviews than "Star Trek." Marking the fourth title in the "X-Men" series, its 10-day tally stands at $130 million.
Although ticket sales for its second weekend dropped 68 percent from its opening three-day stretch, Fox executive Chris Aronson said the studio was pleased. "It's what franchise movies do, and given the competition in the marketplace, it's right in line with expectations," he said.
The 12 highest-grossing movies this weekend collectively amassed nearly $141 million in North America, up almost 20 percent from the same weekend a year ago, while year-to-date revenues and attendance are also up by double-digits.
Rounding out this weekend's top five films were the romantic comedy "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," with $10.5 million, the thriller "Obsessed," at $6.6 million, and the comedy "17 Again," with $4.4 million. The only other new wide release, the comic crime yarn "Next Day Air," opened at No. 6 with $4 million.
Editing by Cynthia Osterman