The latest incarnation of X-Men returned to action as Fox’s mutants debuted top in North America to ensure the fourth consecutive weekend climb compared to a year ago.

A solid if unspectacular $56m launch for X-Men: First Class will give hope to studio executives who must believe the generally well reviewed franchise prequel has the cachet to drive robust follow-up business in the coming weeks.

Box office watchers reassured themselves with the facts that weekend box office climbed 27% against the same weekend last year and year-to-date revenues trailed 2010 by a not-so-dispiriting 7% on $4.2bn.

The $64m international launch of X-Men: First Class means it has reached $120m worldwide after the first weekend. The North American debut was about even with that of X-Men back in July 2000, although the latter’s $54.5m debut would be worth around $71m today.

Even without adjusting for inflation the gulf is greater between the second X-Men film (May 2003, $85.6m), the third (May 2006, $102.8m) and Wolverine (May 2009, $85.1m).

In its second weekend The Hangover Part II dropped around 62% for $186.9m; a commendable result that will nonetheless struggle to beat the $277.3m heights scaled by the original back in the summer of 2009.

Paramount/DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 and Universal’s duo of Bridesmaids and Fast Five all crossed significant milestones. Kung Fu Panda 2 reached $100.4m in its second weekend, while Bridesmaids has amassed $107.3m after four.

Fast Five stands at $202.1m after six. The film is a juggernaut and ranks as Universal’s biggest entry in the series at the North American, international and global box office.

Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides should cross $200m for Disney next weekend if not before and ranks fourth on $190.3m after three weekends.

In limited release, the 2010 Toronto hit Beginners acquired by Focus Features opened on $135,000 from five for a notable $27,000 per-site average. The Weinstein Company released Richard Ayoade’s Brit comedy Submarine on $40,800 from four and in the second weekend Fox Searchlight expanded Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winner The Tree Of Life by 16 theatres to 20 and reported $621,000 for $1.3m.

Next weekend’s wide releases are Paramount’s adventure Super 8 from J J Abrams and Relativity Media’s family film Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer.

Estimated Top 10 North America Jun 3-5, 2011
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) X-Men: First Class (Fox) Fox Int’l $56m –
2 (1) The Hangover Part II(Warner Bros) WBPI $32.4m $186.9m
3 (2) Kung Fu Panda 2 (Paramount/DreamWorks) PPI $24.3m $100.4m
4 (3) Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $18m $190.3m
5 (4) Bridesmaids (Universal) UPI $12.1m $107.3m
6 (5) Thor (Paramount/Marvel Studios) PPI $4.2m $169.1m
7 (6) Fast Five (Universal) UPI $3.2m $202.1m
8 (7) Midnight In Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) Imagina $2.9m $6.9m
9 (9) Jumping The Broom (TriStar) SPRI $865,000 $35.9m
10 (8) Something Borrowed (Warner Bros) Summit Int’l $835,000 $36.7m