Fox's "Deadpool 2" brought in $125 million this weekend, giving it the second-highest opening ever for an R-rated movie and ending the three-week reign of Disney's "Avengers: Infinity War" at the top of the North American box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.
"Deadpool 2," with Ryan Reynolds returning as the title character and co-writing this time, fell somewhat short of the $130 million the studio predicted and the $132.4 million that its predecessor earned two years ago.
Analysts and the studio said the difference can be attributed to the first film opening on a holiday weekend, and could easily be made up with Memorial Day coming, despite the looming competition from "Solo: A Star Wars Story."
"I think with a holiday on our second weekend we'll catch 'Deadpool' if not exceed it," said Chris Aronson, distribution chief for 20th Century Fox.
The film grossed $176.3 million worldwide and opened better overseas than the first, especially finding audiences in Latin America.
The Avengers are hardly hurting. Disney and Marvel's "Avengers: Infinity War" brought in an estimated $29 million in North America for a four-week take of $595 million domestically and $1.2 billion internationally. It's now the fifth highest grossing film of all time worldwide.
In a whole different corner of the cinematic universe, "Book Club" was third with a $12.5 million weekend that exceeded expectations.
It was a successful piece of counter-programming for Paramount, which used the modestly budgeted comedy starring Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen to find older audiences and women while "Deadpool 2" dwelled overwhelmingly on young men.
"There are definitely audiences out there for whom superhero movies are not their cup of tea," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore.
"Deadpool 2" follows the proudly foul formula of the first, mixing the usual superhero set pieces with gore, gross-out jokes, 80s power ballads and frequent fourth-wall violations.
The box office of the second film suggests that formula can become a long-term franchise, and builds its possibilities with the addition of antihero teammates from Marvel Comics for the title character, including Josh Brolin's Cable and Zazie Beetz's Domino.
"The source material is so vast and rich that I don't think there's any question that it just opens the door for more," Aronson said.
Along with the earnings and acclaim for last year's R-rated "Logan," Fox has made itself the early leader in the burgeoning subgenre.
"The R-rating may be restrictive in terms of the audience make-up, but it's certainly not restrictive in the creative freedom it offers, so when movies like these hit, they can hit big," Dergarabedian said. "There is a place for the R rating. In the superhero genre it offers endless and really cool possibilities."
"Deadpool 2" next faces off with "Solo," but the two films along with the still-earning "Avengers" ought to make for a major Memorial Day for the industry.
"This marketplace is big enough for all these films," Dergarabedian said.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Deadpool 2," $125 million.
2."Avengers: Infinity War," $28.6 million.
3. "Book Club," $12.5 million.
4. "Life of the Party," $7.7 million.
5. "Breaking In," $6.4 million.
6. "Show Dogs," $6 million.
7. "Overboard," $4.7 million.
8. "A Quiet Place," $4 million.
9. "Rampage," $1.5 million.
10. "I Feel Pretty," $1.2 million.
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