By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES, March 12 (Variety.com) - "Kong: Skull Island" emerged victorious after a battle of the beasts that pitted the giant ape movie against the Wolverine's last stand. Cresting a wave of good reviews, "Kong: Skull Island" topped the domestic box office, racking up a mighty $61 million. That handily beat estimates, which had "Kong: Skull Island" debuting to between $45 million to $50 million.
In its second weekend, Fox's "Logan" dropped 58% to $37.8 million, pushing its stateside total to $152.6 million. The R-rated comic book adventure is Hugh Jackman's swan song as Wolverine after nearly two decades playing the X-Men member.
"Kong: Skull Island" gets bragging rights for topping expectations, but the film isn't out of the woods yet. It cost a hefty $185 million to produce, which means that it will need to be a big hit overseas if Legendary and Warner Bros., the studios behind the film, want to make a profit. On the domestic front, "Kong: Skull Island" is also staring down Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," a live action fairy tale that is expected to premiere to as much as $120 million next weekend. That will likely suck up most of the oxygen in the multiplexes, making it difficult for other films to keep drawing in big crowds.
Legendary and Warner Bros. has grand ambitions for King Kong. The film is the second installment in a planned monster franchise. The first chapter, 2015's "Godzilla," opened to $93.2 million in the states before topping out at $529.1 million globally. The plan is for King Kong and Godzilla to meet in an epic showdown of primordial creatures. Because of its massive production and marketing costs, "Kong: Skull Island" will need to do roughly $500 million worldwide to be considered a success.
Set in the waning days of the Vietnam War, "Kong: Skull Island" exchanges embassy helicopter rescues for oversized primates looming large against a fog-encrusted jungle setting. Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who made splash with the Sundance favorite "Kings of Summer," directed the picture, with Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson heading up an ensemble cast. Critics embraced the decision to give an "Apocalypse, Now" sheen to the oft-filmed story of King Kong, with Variety's Owen Gleiberman hailing it as "a rousing and smartly crafted primordial-beastie spectacular."
With Wolvie and Kong duking it out, Blumhouse and Universal's "Get Out" snagged third place. The low-budget thriller about a black man whose visit to his white girlfriend's hometown takes a sinister turn, picked up $21.1 million. It has earned $111 million in three weeks of release -- a fantastic return on its $4.5 million budget.
The top five was rounded out by Lionsgate's "The Shack" and Warner Bros.' "The Lego Batman Movie," which earned $10.1 million and $7.8 million, respectively. "The Shack," a faith-based drama, has grossed $32.3 million in two weeks of release. The latest Lego movie has earned $159 million after five weeks.
In limited release, CBS Films' "The Sense of an Ending," an adaptation of Julian Barnes's prize-winning novel, opened to $42,000 from four locations.