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'Thor' Wins, but 'Best Man Holiday' steals box-office thunder

'Thor' Wins, but 'Best Man Holiday' steals box-office thunder © Walt Disney Studios / 'Thor: The Dark World' 'Thor' Wins, but 'Best Man Holiday' steals box-office thunder

By Todd Cunningham

"Thor: The Dark World" thundered to its second straight North American box office triumph with an estimated $38.4 million this weekend, and Disney's Marvel superhero sequel hit the $480 million mark globally. But African-American romantic comedy "The Best Man Holiday" provided the lightning bolt.

Bing: Critics' reviews for 'Thor'

The long-percolating sequel - writer-director Malcolm D. Lee's original film came out nearly 15 years ago - delivered an eye-popping $30.5 million in its debut, about $10 million beyond pre-release projections. It cost just $17 million to make, so it's a big win for distributor Universal.

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Malcolm D. Lee - who produced with Sean Daniel - reassembled the ensemble of the first film for this holiday sequel, the week's only wide release. Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Monica Calhoun and Melissa De Sousa reprise their career-launching roles in "Best Man Holiday."

Marketing for the film directly targeted African Americans, particularly women. It connected, and even became something of a reunion party for many fans. Fandango reported 40 percent of advance ticket buyers said they'd see it with a group of four or more.

Critics liked "Best Man Holiday" (72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences loved it and gave it a rare "A+" CinemaScore, suggesting it will have a healthy shelf life over the holidays.

The geriatrics-gone-wild comedy "Last Vegas" was third with about $9 million. Starring Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, the R-rated bachelor party romp is showing real staying power for CBS Films. It fell just 20 percent from last weekend and has now brought in more than $40 million in three weeks.

Relativity's 3D animated turkey tale "Free Birds" was next with $8.3 million. It's holding well too - off just 29 percent - and has brought in more than $42 million domestically after three weeks.

"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" was fifth with $7.6 million, and the raunchy comedy starring Johnny Knoxville has now brought in more than $90 million for Paramount.

Warner Bros. 3D space epic "Gravity" surpassed another box office milestone Saturday, with $500 million worldwide. The Sandra Bullock-George Clooney Oscar hopeful has been in theaters for seven weeks and finished sixth with $6.2 million, upping its domestic total to $240 million.

Oscar hopefuls "12 Years a Slave" and "Captain Phillips" were next with $4.8 million and $4.4 million respectively.

Fox Searchlight expanded the R-rated slavery saga by 267 into 1,411 theaters and it has now taken in $25 million in five weeks. Sony's Tom Hanks piracy tale is about to cross $100 million domestically and has taken in more than $164 million worldwide.

Paramount's "Nebraska" opened in four theaters in New York and L.A. Director Alexander Payne's black-and-white drama starring Bruce Dern took in around $140,000 for a solid $35,000 per-screen average.

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