Wonder Woman' Lassoes Box Office's Top Spot

By Erich Schwartzel Features Dow Jones Newswires

"Wonder Woman," the first major comic-book adaptation to put a super heroine front and center in more than a decade, powered to the top of the box office this weekend with an estimated $100.5 million debut.

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The critical acclaim and box-office success of "Wonder Woman" breathes new life into Warner Bros.' DC Comics franchise, which has had the performance of recent installments like "Suicide Squad" hurt by withering reviews.

Gal Gadot headlines "Wonder Woman" as Diana, Princess of the Amazons, a warrior who becomes the title character made famous by Lynda Carter on the 1970s television show. When a World War I pilot ( Chris Pine) crashes into her hidden world of Themyscira, Diana joins him to fight the German army.

"Wonder Woman," directed by Patty Jenkins, is the best opening of all time for a female director. Women made up 52% of the opening-weekend audience; most DC movies sell more than 60% of tickets to men in their first weekends, said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution at the Time Warner Inc.-owned studio.

"There's no question that this character hits the zeitgeist," he said.

"Wonder Woman" is Ms. Jenkins's first feature directing credit since 2003's "Monster." Her accomplishment comes amid considerable scrutiny of Hollywood's lopsided record of hiring women directors.

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In 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began interviewing directors and Hollywood executives about hiring practices; the investigation is ongoing.

Overseas returns totaled $122 million, led by a $38 million debut in China. Warner Bros. brought on Chinese companies Dalian Wanda Group Co. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. as investors in the film to help with marketing and distribution in the country. "Wonder Woman" has so far opened in countries comprising about 75% of the global marketplace.

The movie, which cost about $150 million to make, was also co-financed by RatPac-Dune Entertainment LLC, the film finance group that until recently was co-led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (Mr. Mnuchin is listed as an executive producer on the film.)

The weekend's other new wide release, "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie," opened to $23.5 million in second place, a fine start for the inexpensive animated film.

"Captain Underpants," adapted from the children's book series, is the last DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. release that will be distributed by Twentieth Century Fox since the company was acquired last year by Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal.

(Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox, and News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, share common ownership.)

"Wonder Woman" re-energizes a summer box office that last week suffered its worst Memorial Day weekend in 18 years. Year-to-date box office is up nearly 3%, according to Nielsen.

Write to Erich Schwartzel at erich.schwartzel@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 04, 2017 16:01 ET (20:01 GMT)