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'Wonder Woman' is a hit that even Hollywood can't ignore

NEW YORK — Batman is the superhero with the calling-card beam of light, but Wonder Woman sent a signal over the weekend that even Hollywood couldn't miss.

Patty Jenkins' "Wonder Woman" grossed US$103.3 million in North America over its debut weekend, a figure that easily surpassed industry expectations, set a new record for a film directed by a woman and bested all previous stand-alone female superhero movies put together. (There aren't many and there hasn't been one in 12 years.)

Strong reviews (93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and word of mouth (an A CinemaScore) pushed the film into must-see status. Wonder Woman, that Amazonian warrior-princess last in the spotlight in '70s, lassoed the zeitgeist. By Monday, Warner Bros. had to increase its weekend estimate up by almost US$3 million because audiences kept coming on Sunday.

"Wonder Woman" is a hit, and in a movie industry that has seldom put female filmmakers behind the camera for its biggest blockbusters, it could be an important one. It certainly had that feel opening weekend, where droves of moviegoers came wearing "We are all Diana" T-shirts, young girls flocked in Wonder Woman outfits and even movie stars were blowing kisses at the movie and calling it a "game changer."

"I am a filmmaker who wants to make successful films, of course. I want my film to be celebrated," Jenkins said before her film's debut. "But there's a whole other person in me who's sitting and watching what's happening right now who so hopes, not for me, that this movie defies expectation. Because I want to see the signal that that will send to the world."

Jenkins' objective appeared to be met by the opening of "Wonder Woman," a heavily marketed US$150 million movie that spent a decade in development before finally — after hordes of other superheroes — making it to the big screen.

"Wonder Woman" didn't surpass the openings of previous DC Comics adaptations: the terribly received "Batman v. Superman" and "Suicide Squad." But unlike those releases, "Wonder Woman" is good enough to play strongly through the next few weeks. "The momentum is with us in every way," said Warner Bros. distribution chief Jeff Goldstein.

That was decidedly not the case heading into the weekend. "Wonder Woman" came on the heels of disappointing DC Comics films and a lackluster early summer box office where little besides "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" has caught fire.

But more importantly, Jenkins and "Wonder Woman" burst through Hollywood's glass ceiling with one of the rarest things: a summer blockbuster helmed by a woman. "Maybe this raises awareness that female directors are a force to be reckoned with," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore.

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