That puts the Warner Bros. film ahead of the premiere of last year's "Batman Begins," another Warner superhero revival, which took in $48.7 million over its opening weekend and $72.9 million in its first five days. But "Superman Returns" finished far behind Sony's "Spider-Man 2," the record-holder for best five-day openings, with $152.4 million over Fourth of July weekend in 2004.
The weekend's other new wide release, 20th Century Fox's "The Devil Wears Prada," debuted far stronger than expected to come in second with $27 million. Industry analysts had expected the movie, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, to debut at less than $20 million.
The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Sony's Adam Sandler comedy "Click," fell to third place with $19.4 million, raising its 10-day total to $77.9 million.
Hollywood's overall revenues rose for the seventh straight weekend. The top 12 movies took in $140.1 million, up 5 percent from Fourth of July weekend last year. If estimates hold, it would be the second-best Fourth of July weekend ever, behind the $158.4 million haul in 2004, according to Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
The first big-screen adventure for the Man of Steel in 19 years, "Superman Returns" traces the comic-book hero's homecoming after a mysterious five-year absence. Played by newcomer Brandon Routh, Superman finds lady love Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has a son and a new man in her life, while archenemy Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has hatched a plot to control the world.
Directed by Bryan Singer, who made the blockbusters "X-Men" and "X2: X-Men United," "Superman Returns" earned favorable reviews. A Superman fan since boyhood, Singer passed on doing a third "X-Men" to make "Superman Returns" after Warner let him throw out previous Man of Steel scripts and start from scratch with his own story.
"Bryan is just such a bright and creative individual. He had his own vision, and he was right and did a great job," said Dan Fellman, Warner head of distribution.
The movie should hit $110 million by Tuesday, Fellman said.
"Superman Returns" had big returns in 76 huge-screen IMAX theaters, most of which ran the movie incorporating 3-D footage in many action sequences. About $5 million of the film's grosses came from IMAX theaters.
"The Devil Wears Prada," adapted from Lauren Weisberger's best-selling novel, stars Hathaway as an aspiring journalist who reluctantly takes a job at a top fashion magazine, where she works for a tyrannical editor (Streep).
The movie's audience was four-fifths women, who turned out in far bigger numbers than 20th Century Fox had predicted.
"I don't know what to say. This is beyond my expectations," said Bruce Snyder, the studio's head of distribution.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures through July 4 will be released Wednesday.
1. "Superman Returns," $52.15 million.
2. "The Devil Wears Prada," $27 million.
3. "Click," $19.4 million.
4. "Cars," $14 million.
5. "Nacho Libre," $6.2 million.
6. "The Lake House," $4.5 million.
7. "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," $4.4 million.
8. "Waist Deep," $3.3 million.
9. "The Break-Up," $2.8 million.
10. "The Da Vinci Code," $2.3 million.