Wolverine underperforms at US box office

Hugh Jackman's The Wolverine has topped the North American box with a less-than-expected US$55 million (NZ$68m) weekend opening, but it is Cate Blanchett who looks set for another run at Oscar gold.

Despite claiming the number one spot, The Wolverine's $55 million haul disappointed box office analysts.

The Wolverine, shot largely in Sydney and with a storyline taking the X-Men mutant with a bad attitude and adamantium claws to Japan, was expected to earn up to $75 million on its debut in US and Canadian cinemas.

The studio behind the action film, Rupert Murdoch's Twentieth Century Fox, was also off, forecasting a $US60 million take.

The opening haul was down on Jackman's previous Wolverine portrayal, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which debuted in 2009 with a bumper $US85 million while this year's superhero movies left Wolverine in their wake.

Superman film, Man of Steel, opened with $116 million and Iron Man 3 trumped with a huge $174 million open.

Jackman, who also co-produced The Wolverine so he will reap tens of millions in profits, won't be too disappointed, with the film doing strong business globally over the weekend, including Australia.

The Wolverine's estimated global take so far is $141 million and it is yet to open in the key territory of Japan.

"Other than Hugh Jackman, it is pretty much 100 per cent Japanese cast," director James Mangold said.

"I think that took a lot of guts on the part of Fox and I think they also let me play a third of the movie in Japanese, which I thought also was a sophisticated way to go."

Two other Aussies, horror director James Wan and Blanchett, had stellar weekends at the North American box office.

Wan's haunted house film The Conjuring took the No. 2 spot with $21.3 million, following last's week's huge number one opening.

The Conjuring, made for just $20 million, has earned $84 million in total.

Blanchett has received rave reviews for her performance in the new Woody Allen-directed film Blue Jasmine, and this helped the film, released in just six theatres in Los Angeles and New York on the weekend, to a healthy $613,000.

The strategy to target small audiences in LA and New York, before opening the film across North America, is designed to create buzz and generate a potential run at Hollywood's award season, which begins in December.

In comparison, The Wolverine opened in 3924 North American theatres.

Blanchett plays a New York socialite who loses everything when her Bernie Madoff-like husband, played by Alec Baldwin, is sent to prison.

"Her bravura performance is tinged with haughtiness, dry humour and madness," USA Today critic Claudia Puig wrote.

"It's one of the year's finest, most complex portrayals, in one of Allen's best films in years."

Despicable Me 2 was third on the North American box office charts with $US16 million.

- AAP

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