Without the built-in business that generally goes with a sequel, "Snow White" was a question mark as a draw for young males who typically make up most of the action crowd. The movie wound up drawing a fairly even audience, with female fans accounting for 53 percent of viewers.
"We weren't even thinking we could do beyond $40 million, especially for a title where you didn't know if the males are going to show up. And they did," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal.
Overseas, "Snow White" added $39.3 million in 45 markets, putting the worldwide total at $95.6 million for the movie that stars Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth.
"Snow White" bumped Sony's "Men in Black 3" from the top spot and into second-place with $29.3 million. The Will Smith-Tommy Lee Jones sequel raised its domestic total to $112.3 million after two weekends and added $78.6 million overseas for an international take of $274.6 million and a worldwide gross of $386.9 million.
Disney's superhero sensation "The Avengers" remained strong at No. 3 with $20.3 million, lifting its domestic total to $552.7 million. "The Avengers" climbed past "The Dark Knight" at $533.3 million to become No. 3 all-time on the domestic revenue chart, behind "Avatar" at $760.5 million and "Titanic" at $658.5 million.
Adding $12.4 million overseas, "The Avengers" pushed its international haul to $802.5 million and its worldwide earnings to $1.36 billion. That raised it past last year's "Harry Potter" finale at $1.33 billion to put "The Avengers" at No. 3 in all-time revenue worldwide, also behind only "Avatar" ($2.8 billion) and "Titanic" ($2.2 billion).
Ridley Scott's "Alien" forerunner "Prometheus," from 20th Century Fox, got off to a solid start overseas with $35 million in 15 markets ahead of its U.S. release Friday.
Though not a direct prequel, "Prometheus" stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Theron in a sci-fi adventure that takes place decades before the action of "Alien" and is set in a similar world as that 1979 horror tale from filmmaker Scott.
In one weekend, "Snow White & the Huntsman" pulled in nearly as much as the $62.4 million that the year's previous Snow White adventure, "Mirror Mirror," took in domestically over its entire run.
"Mirror Mirror" was a fairy-tale comedy that appealed mainly to female crowds. Drawing well among male and female fans, "Snow White & the Huntsman" is an all-out action flick, with "Twilight" star Stewart as the princess, aided by a rugged man of arms ("Thor" star Hemsworth) to lead a battle against the evil queen (Theron).
Despite strong revenues for the top-three movies, domestic business was down for the third-straight weekend compared to last summer. Receipts totaled $142 million, off 11 percent compared to the same weekend a year ago, when "X-Men: First Class" led with $55.1 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
Overall revenues are running neck-and-neck with the summer season of 2011, when Hollywood took in record cash between the first weekend of May and Labor Day. Box-office analysts had expected this summer to hurtle beyond that record, but so far, only a handful of films have paid off.
Big as "The Avengers" has been, it was this summer's only hit until last weekend, with other May releases such as "Dark Shadows" and "Battleship" falling flat domestically.
"I thought it was going to be like a rout, easy pickings to pick off last year's revenue record," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "Now I think it's going to be more of a tug-of-war. I still think we'll get there, but it looks closer than it did at first."
In narrower release, Andy Garcia's Mexican war drama "For Greater Glory" opened at No. 10 with $1.8 million in 757 theaters, for an average of $2,378 a cinema. That compared to an average of $14,910 in 3,773 theaters for "Snow White."
The Weinstein Co. horror sequel "Piranha 3DD" drowned in limited release of just 86 theaters, debuting with $179,000 for an average of just $2,081 a cinema.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Snow White & the Huntsman," $56.3 million ($39.3 million international).
2. "Men in Black 3," $29.3 million ($78.6 million international).
3. "The Avengers," $20.3 million ($12.4 million).
4. "Battleship," $4.8 million ($1.5 million international).
5. "The Dictator," $4.7 million ($6.5 million international).
6. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," $4.6 million ($557,000 international).
7. "What to Expect When You're Expecting," $4.4 million ($3.7 million international).
8. "Dark Shadows," $3.9 million ($7.2 million international).
9. "Chernobyl Diaries," $3 million.
10. "For Greater Glory," $1.8 million.
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "Men in Black 3," $78.6 million.
2. "Snow White & the Huntsman," $39.3 million.
3. "Prometheus," $35 million.
4. "The Avengers," $12.4 million.
5. "Dark Shadows," $7.2 million.
6. "The Dictator," $6.5 million.
7. "What to Expect When You're Expecting," $3.7 million.
8. "All About My Wife," $3.4 million.
9. "Hugo," $2.7 million.
10. "American Reunion," $2.4 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.