Green Lantern
Credit: TM and DC Comics/Warner Bros

ORIGINAL POST: As expected, Green Lantern lit up the box office yesterday: According to early estimates, the emerald-superhero romp grossed $21.6 million. By comparison, Thor — another film about a cosmic superhero without much mainstream name recognitiongrossed $25.7 million on its opening day last month. Since reviews haven’t been too kind, I’m betting Lantern will experience a bit of a drop-off on the way to a weekend gross in the area of $55 million. (It also grossed $3.4 million in midnight screenings on Thursday.) It’s hardly a disappointment, although the PG-13 film will have an uphill battle trying to recoup its $200 million budget. It’ll be interesting to whether Lantern‘s foreign grosses can bolster the film’s overall performance. (Never underestimate the cross-cultural appeal of colorful, semi-abstract space battles.)

The weekend’s other new wide release, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, came in second with an estimated $6.4 million. That’s almost identical to the Friday gross of Jim Carrey’s last broad comedy, Yes Man, which bowed in December 2008 to a $6.5 million. It’s not a great opening for the PG-rated comedy — perhaps parents thought their kids would rather watch funny Green Lantern aliens than funny penguins? — and barring a weekend groundswell, expect the film to gross about $18 million for the weekend. Could it be that we’ve finally reached the end of March of the Penguins‘ long tail? (Pray for Happy Feet 2.)

Last week’s first-place finisher Super 8 fell to third place with $6 million, bringing it to a total gross of $57.5 million. That’s about a decline of about 50 percent from last Friday — not bad for a film that features zero attractive actors wearing ridiculous costumes. It’ll be interesting to see if Super 8 can jump ahead of Mr. Popper’s in the next couple of days — since both films feature emotionally absent dads learning to reconnect with their children, they could both surge on Father’s Day.

Rounding out the top five, X-Men: First Class fell 55 percent from last Friday, with an estimated $3.4 gross. Nipping at its heels in a race for fourth place, The Hangover Part II earned $3.2 million — a decent 44 percent drop-off for the comedy sequel, which has already grossed $226 million domestically. Both films should finish the weekend with about $10-12 million.

On the indie scene, The Art of Getting By grossed a just-okay $296,000 in 610 theaters. Conversely, The Tree of Life continued to grow with $323,000 on a mere 114 theaters. Hey, when you think about it, The Tree of Life is sort of the art-film version of Green Lantern: Daddy issues, cosmos-spanning narrative, and, er, I’m pretty sure Brad Pitt wears a ring?

Be sure to check back here on Sunday for the complete box office report! Here’s your Friday top five:

1. Green Lantern — $21.6 mil

2. Mr. Popper’s Penguins — $6.4 mil

3. Super 8 — $6 mil

4. X-Men: First Class — $3.4 mil

5. The Hangover Part II — $3.2 mil

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich