NEW YORK: The R-rated "X-Men" spinoff "Logan" slashed into the weekend box office, opening with a massive $85.3 million in North American theatres, according to studio estimates Sunday, while best-picture winner "Moonlight" got a significant, if far from superhero-sized, Oscar bump.
The debut of 20th Century Fox's "Logan," starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, puts it among the ranks of biggest March openings ever and top R-rated debuts. Like last year's R-rated "Deadpool" (also a Fox release), the better-than-expected opening for "Logan" — a darkly violent, grittily dramatic movie applauded by critics — further proves moviegoers' hunger for less conventional comic book films.
"'Deadpool,' was to comedy what 'Logan' is to drama," said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson, who credited director and co-writer James Mangold and Jackman for executing their personal vision for the film.
Jackman has said it will be his final performance as Wolverine, whose claws he has worn for 17 years. "Logan," made for about $100 million, also sold $152.5 million in tickets overseas.
"On a global scale, we've exceeded all pre-release expectations," Aronson said.
Last week's No. 1 film, Jordan Peele's horror sensation "Get Out" slid just 22 percent — a small drop for any movie but particularly in the horror genre. The acclaimed Universal Pictures release, made for $5 million by Blumhouse Productions, dropped to second place but still grossed $26.1 million. Its 10-day total is $75 million.
The Oscar best-picture winner "Moonlight" had its widest release yet, appearing on 1,564 screens. It turned in its biggest weekend, too, with an estimated $2.5 million. That accounts for roughly 10 percent of the movie's total domestic haul of $25.3 million.
"Moonlight," made for just $1.5 million, is also out on DVD and on-demand. Indie distributor A24 said it will be its highest-grossing release in its five-year existence. "Moonlight" also ranks fourth on iTunes.
"That's a true Oscar halo effect in full view," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "Usually the biggest bounce comes from the nominations. But this film hadn't made a ton of money. A24 smartly expanded into more theatres, and it really worked for them."
Barry Jenkins' drama is nevertheless one of the least widely seen best-picture winners. Only Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" ($17 million) earned less at the domestic box office.
Though it memorably did not win the best picture, Lionsgate's "La La Land" is closing in on $400 million globally after adding another $11 million internationally and $3 million domestically.
Lionsgate's "The Shack" also opened in North American theatres over the weekend and came in third with $16.1 million. The Christian tale, starring Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer, was slammed by critics but attracted one of the largest faith-based audiences in recent years.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.