The summer season arrived with a bang over the weekend as Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine roared to the top of the charts on an estimated $87m three-day gross.

It is the second biggest debut in the X-Men franchise behind The Last Stand’s $102m in May 2006.

Combined with the $73m day-and-date international launch in 101 markets the prequel took approximately $160m worldwide. The North American debut fell some way behind Paramount’s $98.6m launch of Iron Man exactly a year ago and will have taken a dent from the pirate copy that was leaked online last month.

Nonetheless this was an impressive launch to a summer blockbuster season that has the potential to become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in history. Overall box office for the weekend is believed to be a fraction above the comparable period in 2008.

New Line’s comedy Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Aniston, opened in second place through Warner Bros on $15.3m, while the animated sci-fi adventure Battle For Terra failed to break into the top ten in its launch weekend and ranked 12th through Lionsgate on a little below $1.1m.

Elsewhere Screen Gems’ thriller Obsessed tumbled 57.4% and two places to number three in its second weekend on $12.2m for $47m, while Warner Bros’ high school comedy 17 Again dropped to number four on $6.4m for $48.5m. DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters Vs Aliens climbed one place to number five through Paramount in its sixth weekend and added $5.8m for $182.4m.

In its second weekend Paramount-DreamWorks’ drama The Soloist fell 42.4% and two places to number six on $5.6m for $18.1m, while Disneynature’s maiden North American documentary release Earth ranks seventh and has amassed an excellent $21.8m after two weekends.

Universal’s action hit Fast & Furious exited the top ten for the first time in its five-week run and sits in 11th place on the cusp of $150m after adding $2.7m for $149.8m.

In limited release Jim Jarmusch’s crime thriller The Limits Of Control opened through Focus Features on $54,200 from three theatres for a terrific $18,067 per-theatre average.

Next weekend Paramount unleashes its Star Trek reboot from J J Abrams starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana and Simon Pegg. Boldly going alongside it will be Summit Entertainment’s crime caper Next Day Air with Mos Def and Donald Faison.

Estimated Top 10 North America May 1-3 2009

Film (Dist)/Int’l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date:

1 (-) X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Fox) Fox Int’l $87m –
2 (-) Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past (Warner Bros) New Line Int’l $15.3m –
3 (1) Obsessed (Sony) SPRI $12.2m $47m
4 (2) 17 Again (Warner Bros) WBPI $6.4m $48.5m
5 (6) Monsters Vs Aliens (DreamWorks Animation-Paramount) PPI $5.8m $182.4m
6 (4) The Soloist (DreamWorks-Paramount) UPI $5.6m $18.1m
7 (5) Earth (Disneynature) BBC Worldwide/Greenlight/WDSMPI $4.18m $21.8m
8 (3) Fighting (Rogue) UPI $4.17m $17.5m
9 (8) Hannah Montana The Movie (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $4.1m $70.9m
10 (7) State Of Play (Universal) UPI $3.7m $30.9m