According to The Hollywood Reporter, 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Four took the industry by surprise with an estimate of a sizzling $56 million -- far exceeding the mid- to high-$30 million range anticipated heading into the frame. And if early estimates hold up, the Tim Story-directed Fantastic Four may well be the film that helped end the record down weekend streak at the boxoffice.

The Marvel comic book superheroes posted the third-biggest opening this year, behind only Fox's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and Paramount's War of the Worlds, and it was the fifth-biggest debut in July, all of which puts the PG-13 film in some rather esteemed company.

Among all films based on comic book superheroes, Fantastic Four logged the sixth-biggest opening weekend. Fox bumped the release of Fantastic Four back a week when War of the Worlds moved to the July Fourth weekend, a strategy that paid off in a big way for the distributor. Altogether, Fox had four films in the top 10 this weekend. The opening of Fantastic Four only cemented the company's No. 1 position in the North American marketshare race with the distributor's year-to-date cume cruising past the $900 million mark this weekend. War of the Worlds, a sci-fi adventure of a different kind, was still a potent force to be reckoned with on its sophomore session at the boxoffice. The Tom Cruise starrer, helmed by Steven Spielberg and based on the H.G. Wells novel, landed in the second spot with an estimated $31.3 million, down 52% from the first three days of a four-day holiday weekend. The DreamWorks co-production has vaporized an estimated $165.8 million in only 12 days.

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War of the Worlds continued its invasion of international cinemas this weekend, grossing an estimated $60.5 million for a total to date after only 12 days of $201 million. Meanwhile, Fantastic Four bowed No. 1 in all 15 of its markets, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith exploded in Japan and Bewitched showed good if not magical returns in Australia. War of the Worlds debuted in France to an estimated $11 million from 848 locations, marking a personal best for star Tom Cruise and studio Paramount and the second-biggest opening of all time there for distributors United International Pictures.

In South Korea, Steven Spielberg's dystopian alien pic earned about $6.8 million from 300 sites, lifting the four-day cume to $8.5 million, a best for the star, director, distributor and studio in that market.

Dont't forget to also check out: Fantastic Four, Yves Saint Laurent 5 avenue Marceau 75116 Paris

Brian B.