LOS ANGELES -- The ''X-men'' have good box-office genes.
The comic-book adaptation about genetic mutants opened at No. 1, delivering a superhuman debut of $54.5 million.
It was the second-highest opening gross this year, just below the $57.8 million ''Mission: Impossible 2'' took in over its first weekend.
''X-Men'' also had the best debut ever in July, the fourth-highest opening of all time and the best ever for a non-sequel or prequel. ''The Lost World: Jurassic Park'' and ''Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace'' are Nos. 1 and 2, followed by ''Mission: Impossible 2.''
''In the immortal words of Phil Rizzuto, 'Holy cow,''' said Tom Sherak, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox, which released ''X-men.''
''Scary Movie,'' last weekend's top film, slipped to second place but held strong with $26.2 million, pushing its take to $89.1 million in 10 days.
Playing in 3,025 cinemas, ''X-men'' averaged $18,007 a theater, compared to $8,311 in 3,152 locations for ''Scary Movie.''
The two movies, plus solid returns for holdover films, helped lift the overall box office for the second straight weekend after a slump in June. The top 12 movies grossed $148.8 million, up 39 percent over the same weekend last year.
''X-men'' accounted for 38.6 percent of that overall gross and far exceeded predictions by industry analysts.
''Anything over $40 million would have been great,'' said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office. ''We knew this would be the No. 1 movie, but it performed way beyond expectations.''
With two robust weekends, Hollywood is back on track to match last year's record summer revenues of $3 billion. So far this year, summer grosses are about even or may be slightly ahead of last summer's, Dergarabedian said.
''X-men,'' based on the Marvel comic series that debuted in the 1960s, tells the story of a battle between good and evil among mutants who are scorned and mistrusted by the rest of humanity. The cast includes Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry and Anna Paquin.
''X-men'' received generally favorable reviews. Its PG-13 rating opened up a huge teen audience, and the movie had strong appeal for older movie-goers who may have read the comic books as children.
The presence of Shakespearean-trained actors Stewart and McKellen also helped ''X-men'' draw adults, Sherak said.
''What did Alec Guinness do for 'Star Wars?''' Sherak said. ''It's the same thing here. They gave 'X-men' the look of a real movie, not a comic-book movie. They added credibility.''
In limited debuts, the ensemble drama ''The Five Senses'' averaged $14,000 a theater at two New York City movie houses. ''Chuck & Buck,'' a dark comedy about a man's obsession with a boyhood buddy, averaged $10,000 a cinema in seven theaters.
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