‘Thor’ Sequel Tops Box Office With $86 Million for Disney

“Thor: The Dark World,” the superhero sequel from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel studios, placed first in U.S. and Canadian theaters this weekend, collecting $86 million.

The new film, part of Marvel’s potent constellation of box-office superheros, outsold its 2011 predecessor, which had sales of $65.7 million in its debut. The film’s performance underscores the impact of last year’s “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Disney’s highest grossing film ever, Rentrak Corp. said in an e-mailed statement today. “Thor” was projected to take $97 million by BoxOffice.com.

One “Avengers” character has already returned for a solo spin in theaters. “Iron Man 3,” released in May, is the top-grossing movie this year with $1.22 billion worldwide, with almost double the sales “Iron Man 2.”

“It’s a trickle-down effect,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst for researcher BoxOffice.com. “Iron Man 3 came after it and did extremely well and now Thor is benefiting too. It’s a text book case of brand-building the right way.”

Its debut this weekend gives “Thor: The Dark World” the fourth-highest domestic opening this year, behind “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel,” from Warner Bros, and “Fast & Furious 6,” from Universal Pictures, which took $97.4 million in its opening in May, according to Rentrak.

Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, acquired Marvel, the comic book and movie company in December 2009 for $4.2 billion.

Disney Investment

In July, Disney said it bought the rights to the first two “Iron Man” movies, “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” held by Viacom Inc.’s Paramount. The move gives Disney more control over Marvel’s film library as it expands the characters into its television shows and theme-park attractions.

Last week, Disney said it will produce four Marvel superhero TV series for Netflix Inc., the online-streaming service, in a multiyear deal. The Burbank, California-based company also plans a sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

In “Thor: The Dark World,” Chris Hemsworth returns as the title character. He battles to save Earth and the Nine Realms from the Dark Elves, newly emerged from hibernation and armed with a long-buried, universe-destroying substance. Thor’s challenge is complicated when his love interest, played by Natalie Portman, is infected with the substance. Thor must also contend with his scheming brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston.

RottenTomatoes.com, a review aggregator site, gave it a 66 percent fresh rating.

“It’s a review-proof movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “Fans just want to have fun watching it. Anytime a Marvel movie opens it’s like a behemoth.”