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'The Wolverine' to break big-budget box office dry spell

This post has been updated. See below for details.

Known for his healing powers, "The Wolverine" will try to bring big-budget summer movies back to life at the box office this weekend.

The 3-D sequel from 20th Century Fox is expected to start off with a healthy sum of between $75 million and $80 million for the weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. Though an opening in that range would not be enough to surpass the $85-million launch of 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” it would still make for one of the biggest debuts of the season.

While pricey productions like “After Earth,” “The Lone Ranger” and “R.I.P.D.” have bombed this summer, movies with superheroes have continued to prove alluring to audiences. The top two grossing films since May are “Iron Man 3,” featuring Robert Downey Jr. in a gizmo-laden suit, and the Superman reboot “Man of Steel.” So far this year movie attendance is down about 3%, while ticket sales are off about 1%, according to Hollywood.com.

PHOTOS: Hugh Jackman: Life in pictures

Hugh Jackman first played the clawed mutant in 2000’s “X-Men,” which went on to gross $300 million worldwide and prompted studios to take comic book properties more seriously. He reprised the character in subsequent “X-Men” sequels, but took center stage in 2009’s spinoff “X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Jackman will also be featured prominently in the next “X-Men” movie, “Days of Future Past,” which is set for release next summer.

In recent years, the 44-year-old actor has had a mixed track record at the box office. “Les Misérables,” for which he earned an Academy Award nomination, was a global hit, grossing $437 million worldwide last year. His 2011 robot boxing movie “Real Steel” didn’t resonate with domestic audiences, but did better abroad, where it collected 71% of its total $295-million in gross ticket sales.

In “The Wolverine,” which cost at least $120 million to produce, Jackman’s mutant -- also known as Logan -- contemplates what life would be like without the ability to heal himself from illness. On Thursday, the movie had notched a 69% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- far better than the 38% score the original earned four years ago.

VIDEO: Upcoming summer films

“The Wolverine” is the only new film hitting theaters nationwide this weekend, though CBS Films will open its low-budget R-rated comedy “The To Do List” in roughly 600 locations. The $1.5-million production featuring “Parks and Recreation” star Aubrey Plaza will likely gross between $2 million and $3 million this weekend. In the movie, which has received generally positive reviews, Plaza plays a nerdy high school valedictorian eager to lose her virginity before she leaves for Georgetown University.

Meanwhile, a couple of July’s well-received independent films will try for more commercial success. “The Way, Way Back,” a coming-of-age tale that has so far collected about $5 million, could double its overall gross this weekend as it expands to around 900 theaters.

“Fruitvale,” about a 22-year-old black father fatally shot by a white transit officer, will play in 1,000 theaters and likely sell about $5 million worth of tickets. Heading into the weekend, the film starring Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer has already grossed $1.5 million.

[For the record, 1:53 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said "The Wolverine" had a budget of over $200 million. In fact, the budget was around $120 million.]

ALSO:

Hugh Jackman gets to the heart of ‘The Wolverine’

With 'The To Do List,' a sexual first for Aubrey Plaza

‘Wolverine’ star Hugh Jackman on Logan’s explosiveness, restraint

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amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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