By Lisa Richwine and Andrea Burzynski
May 19 (Reuters) - “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the newest installment in the classic intergalactic franchise, blasted to the top of movie box office charts with $70.6 million in weekend ticket sales at theaters in the United States and Canada.
The new 3D voyage for Captain Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise knocked mighty “Iron Man 3” into second place, while the Marvel superhero sequel grabbed $35.2 million. Jazz Age drama “The Great Gatsby” finished third with $23.4 million, according to studio estimates.
Weekend ticket sales for “Into Darkness” failed to reach the level of 2009 movie “Star Trek,” which took in $75.2 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters without a lift from higher 3D ticket prices.
However, its overall take from Wednesday through Sunday beat the 2009 numbers, with “Into Darkness” taking in $84.1 million. The 2009 installment took in $79.2 million for the same period, according to distributor Paramount.
“Into Darkness,” a $190 million production, opened late on Wednesday to grab a head start on the weekend. The take through Sunday was shy of the $100 million some box office analysts projected.
Paramount said the film’s audience was comprised largely of longtime “Star Trek” fans, but was optimistic that good reviews and word of mouth would bring in a broader audience in coming weeks.
Paramount also expressed satisfaction with the film’s performance abroad.
“To a large extent, the last film was uniquely a U.S. and Canada event, but we’re really pleased that the foreign sales are neck-and-neck with the domestic market,” said Don Harris, president of domestic theatrical distribution at Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc.
The movie has rung up $80.5 million in international markets since opening outside North America on Thursday, Paramount said, for a combined global total of $164.5 million.
“Into Darkness” stars Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, the pointy-eared, human-Vulcan first officer. British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, best known as the detective Sherlock Holmes in the BBC drama “Sherlock,” plays a villain who launches an attack on Starfleet’s base in London.
The movie is the second “Star Trek” film directed by “Lost” TV show creator J.J. Abrams, who rebooted the Star Trek franchise with more action and has attempted to broaden it to a wider audience beyond hard-core “Trekkies” who were fans of the classic 1960s TV show and 10 previous big-screen adaptations.
Abrams’ 2009 installment was a critical success, though analysts were disappointed with foreign box office sales of about $130 million, just one-third of its global take of $386 million.
Critics have embraced “Into Darkness,” which as of Sunday had earned an 87 percent positive rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences responded with an “A” rating in surveys by CinemaScore.
“Iron Man 3” added to its blockbuster sales around the world, reaching $736.2 through Sunday for a global total of $1.07 billion less than one month after its April 24 overseas debut, according to Walt Disney Co. The movie, from Disney’s Marvel Studios, stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a billionaire businessman with a superhero alter-ego.
“The Great Gatsby,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio in an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, brought its worldwide total to $132.3 million through two weekends, according to Warner Bros., the Time Warner Inc unit that released the film.
Rounding out the top five, dark action comedy “Pain & Gain,” released by Paramount and starring Mark Wahlberg, landed in fourth place with takings of $3.1 million. Animated family flick “The Croods” took the No. 5 slot with $2.8 million.
In the U.K. and Ireland, “Fast and Furious 6” brought in $13.8 million (9 million pounds) this weekend, a record opening for distributor Universal in those territories. The film will open in the United States, Canada, and 59 international territories on Friday.
Universal Pictures is a unit of Comcast’s NBC/Universal.