NEW YORK — Wonder Woman conquered milestones and movie myths at North American theaters, where the Patty Jenkins-directed superhero film powered its way to a $100.5 million debut this weekend and became the biggest blockbuster ever directed by a woman.
The well-reviewed movie easily surpassed industry expectations with one of summer's biggest debuts, according to studio estimates Sunday. Starring Gal Gadot as the Amazonian warrior princess, Wonder Woman is the rare — and most successful — female-led film in an overwhelmingly male superhero landscape.
It proved a hit with moviegoers, earning an A grade on CinemaScore. While skewing somewhat female, it drew a fairly evenly split audience: 52% female and 48% male. Wonder Woman added $122.5 million internationally, including $38 million in China.
"It shows that superhero movies aren't just about men. They're about women as well," says Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros. "All the noise about Patty Jenkins breaking the glass ceiling for directors" added to it as well.
Women have long struggled to get behind the camera of Hollywood's biggest productions. Female directors accounted for just 9% of the 250 top-grossing movies in North America in 2015 and only 7% in 2016.
Jenkins, who previously directed 2003's Monster starring Charlize Theron, now holds the record for biggest domestic opening for a female director. The previous mark was Sam Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades of Grey, with $85.1 million in 2015.
Some still had issues with Wonder Woman.Online critics complained of gender inequality after the Alamo Drafthouse scheduled a handful of female-only screenings across the country. Lebanon banned the film because Gadot is Israeli.
Nevertheless, Wonder Woman represents a turning point for Warner Bros. and DC Comics, which have together struggled in recent years to match the Marvel-Disney juggernaut. While Wonder Woman didn't match the box-office might of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (a $166 million opening) or Suicide Squad ($133.7 million), it was much better-received than those roundly derided releases.
"This is a dramatic step in the right direction," Goldstein says. "We've heard fans. We've heard critics. These properties are very complicated and beloved. To get it right, it takes a lot of work."
Last week's top film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, slid dramatically to $21.6 million in its second week. It landed in third place, behind Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. The animated release, in which a pair of students makes their principal think he's a superhero by hypnotizing him, opened with $23.5 million.
But Pirates still sails well overseas. It's made $386.6 million internationally, driving the Disney sequel to more than $500 million globally.
The Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron reboot of Baywatch dropped to fifth place in its second weekend with $8.5 million.
The success of Wonder Woman gave the summer box office a much-needed charge. Thus far, the season's only blockbuster has been Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which fell to fourth place for the weekend with $9.7 million. It's made $355.5 million in North America and $816.6 million worldwide.
Wonder Woman, though, pushed the week's box office up 30% over the same week last year, according to comScore.
"This saves the day, at least for now, for the summer box office," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "Heading into this weekend, the summer movie season was down about 9%, and that deficit has been cut by about half in this one weekend."
Final figures are expected Monday.
© 2017 Associated Press