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Box office: 'Best Man' nearly topples 'Thor'

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NEW YORK (AP) - In an unlikely battle of sequels, "Thor: The Dark World" bested "The Best Man Holiday" at the box office.

Disney's "Thor: The Dark World" continued its box-office reign with $38.5 million in its second week of release, according to studio estimates Sunday. Opening 15 years after the original "The Best Man," Universal's "The Best Man Holiday" opened strongly with $30.6 million.

Drawing an overwhelmingly female and African-American audience, "The Best Man Holiday" was a surprise challenger for the mighty "Thor." The R-rated romantic comedy, with an ensemble cast including Morris Chestnut and Taye Diggs, debuted with more than three times the box office of 1999's "The Best Man." That film opened with $9 million.

The performance of Malcolm D. Lee's "The Best Man Holiday" continued an ongoing trend. Movies that appeal particularly to black audiences have often been surpassing expectations at the box office.

"It's a familiar refrain, and it's getting a little tired," said Lee. "I thought we had a chance to do something special."

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" led the box office for several weeks in August, leading to a cumulative total of $115.5 million domestically. The Oscar-contender "12 Years a Slave" has made $25 million in five weeks of limited release.

Lee said that while black audiences "see everything" at the movies, from action movies to romantic comedies, he hopes broader audiences begin responding to so-called "black films." The audience for "Best Man Holiday" was 87 percent African-American.

Regardless, a third "Best Man" film now seems a likely bet.

"If there is going to be a sequel, it won't take 14 years," granted Lee.

Marvel's Norse superhero, however, has been hammering audiences around the globe. "Thor: The Dark World" made $52.5 million internationally over the weekend, bringing its worldwide total to $479.8 million. With Chris Hemsworth as the title character and Tom Hiddleston as the popular villain Loki, the Thor franchise has proven to be one of Marvel's most successful.

Just as "Thor" approached the half-billion mark, Warner Bros.' space adventure "Gravity" crossed it. In seven weeks of release, "Gravity" has made $514.9 million globally.

"The Best Man Holiday" was the only new wide-release opening over the weekend, as the marketplace clears out for the release of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." In limited release, Alexander Payne's black-and-white Midwest road trip "Nebraska" opened in four locations with a solid $35,000 per theater average for Paramount Pictures.

Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" was originally slated to open, but was postponed to Dec. 25 by Paramount.

Expected to be one of the year's biggest debuts, Lionsgate's "Catching Fire" will abruptly close the box-office window for "Thor" next weekend. "Catching Fire" opened in Brazil over the weekend, earning $6.3 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "Thor: The Dark World," $38.5 million ($52.5 million international).

2. "The Best Man Holiday," $30.6 million.

3. "Last Vegas," $8.9 million ($3.5 million international).

4. "Free Birds," $8.3 million ($1.2 million international).

5. "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," $7.7 million ($5.5 million international).

6. "Gravity," $6.3 million ($18.5 million).

7. "Ender's Game," $6.2 million ($2.2 million international).

8. "12 Years a Slave," $4.7 million.

9. "Captain Phillips," $4.5 million ($8.4 million international).

10. "About Time," $3.5 million ($1.9 million international).

___

Estimated weekend ticket sales Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:

1. "Thor: The Dark World," $52.5 million

2. "Gravity," $18.5 million.

3. "Fack Ju Gohte," $11 million.

4. "The Counselor," $10.8 million.

5. "Escape Plan," $10.2 million.

6. "Friends 2," $9.5 million.

7. "Captain Phillips," $8.4 million.

8. "Carrie," $7.6 million.

9. "Sole A Catinelle," $6.5 million.

10. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $6.3 million.

___

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle

___

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.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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