By John Young
June 12, 2011 at 07:34 PM EDT
Francois Duhamel

It might be a stretch to call its opening “super,” but the sci-fi flick Super 8 enjoyed a solid start with $37 million this weekend, according to studio estimates. The $50 million movie, which was directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, fell just a bit short of other recent original sci-fi flicks such as District 9 ($37.4 million) and the Abrams-produced Cloverfield ($40.1 million), but performed better than this year’s Battle: Los Angeles ($35.6 million). With a story that’s set in 1979 and a tone that emulates Spielberg’s own pictures during that era, the well-reviewed film particularly appealed to older moviegoers. According to Paramount, a whopping 71 percent of Super 8‘s audience was at least 25 years old. IMAX theaters accounted for 12 percent of the PG-13 film’s gross, and CinemaScore moviegoers gave it an overall “B+” rating, which could bode well for its staying power. By comparison, Cloverfield received a “C” grade from CinemaScore audiences, and then plummeted 68 percent in its second weekend.

The children’s film Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer debuted in seventh place to earnings of $6.3 million. The PG movie, based on Megan McDonald’s popular book series, received discouraging reviews but a favorable “B+” from CinemaScore audiences. Then again, 60 percent of CinemaScore’s graders were under 18 and handed the picture an “A-” rating, while those 25 and up (read: parents) opted for a “C+” mark. The $20 million comedy skewed female, with women of all ages composing 78 percent of the audience.

In second place, X-Men: First Class dropped 55 percent for $25 million. While by no means a great hold, that does represent a smaller second-weekend decline than three of the last four X-Men movies — only X2: X-Men United held up better. On the other hand, every other X-Men film had grossed more at this point than First Class, which has so far collected $98.9 million. The Hangover Part II fell 41 percent, for a $18.5 million weekend. On Saturday, the R-rated comedy became the year’s highest grossing movie; it has now earned $216.6 million in three weeks. Kung Fu Panda 2 dipped only 30 percent for $16.6 million, while Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sailed past the $200 million milestone with $10.8 million. Also, Woody Allen’s nostalgic comedy Midnight in Paris expanded to 944 theaters and took in $6.1 million.

In limited release, the critically acclaimed British comedy The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, opened to an okay $84,600 at six locations. Check back next week as Green Lantern confronts his lifelong nemesis: Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

1. Super 8 — $37.0 mil

2. X-Men: First Class — $25.0 mil

3. The Hangover Part II — $18.5 mil

4. Kung Fu Panda 2 — $16.6 mil

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides — $10.8 mil