'Thor' opens to $66 million in North America

The God of Thunder reigned at the North American box office as ``Thor'' became the latest Marvel comic book superhero to leap to the big screen.

According to studio estimates issued Sunday, ``Thor'' sold about $66 million worth of tickets during its first three days of release across the United States and Canada.

The opening was in line with industry forecasts in the $60 million to $70 million range, and marked a strong start for a nonsequel and for the lucrative summer moviegoing period.

But it fell far short of openings by the first installments of other movies in the Marvel stable, such as 2002's ''Spider-Man'' ($115 million) and 2008's ``Iron Man'' ($99 million). Somewhat ominously, it barely exceeded the $62 million start for ``Hulk'' in 2003, the first of two failed attempts to turn the angry green man into a movie franchise.

International sales data for ``Thor'' were not immediately available. The film was No. 1 overseas last weekend with cumulative sales of $93 million.

``Thor'' was produced for $150 million by Walt Disney Co's  Marvel Studios and distributed by Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures. Starring Chris Hemsworth in the title role, it was directed by British actor and filmmaker Kenneth Branagh, best known for his deft handling of Shakespearean material.

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