The haul was far less than the earlier Dan Brown adaptation "The Da Vinci Code" - which earned $77.1 million when in opened in 2006 - but still enough to topple the popular "Star Trek," according to studio estimates Sunday.
In its second weekend, Paramount Pictures' "Star Trek" took in $43 million, a strong number after its $75.2 million opening last weekend, excluding its Thursday midnight screenings. The cumulative total for J.J. Abram's reboot of the sci-fi franchise is $147.6 million.
Sony's "Angels & Demons" reunites Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard for the sequel to "The Da Vinci Code." It opened without the benefit of the buzz and controversy that propelled "The Da Vinci Code" to a $753 million worldwide total.
Overseas business was again strong for "Angels & Demons," which earned $104.3 million internationally. Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony, said the studio expects the film will eventually take in half a billion altogether in theatrical release.
"That chemistry (of Hanks and Howard) worked incredibly well with 'Da Vinci' and it looks like it's absolutely headed in that same vein, certainly on a lesser scale," said Bruer. "We never expected anything to the phenomenon of `Da Vinci.'"
Like "The Da Vinci Code," reviews were not illustrious for "Angels & Demons," but they were mostly better. Bruer called Brown's action-packed best-seller "a far more cinematic story" than "Da Vinci." In it, Hanks again plays Harvard symbolist Robert Langdon who's trying to prevent a series of murders at the Vatican.
"Sony positioned it well," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "They didn't try to say, `This is going to be "The Da Vinci Code."' It was actually quite the contrary. They tried to say this was not `Da Vinci Code,' that it was a different kind of movie."
"Angels & Demons" was the only new wide-release film of the weekend. Coming in third was "X-Men Originals: Wolverine," which earned $14.8 million in its third week, bringing its total to $151.1 million. The prequel to the "X-Men" franchise, starring Hugh Jackman as the mutant with metal claws, had a step drop-off in its second week.
On the whole, it was another robust weekend of business at movie theaters, which have been drawing large crowds throughout the recession. Dergarabedian pegs the year-to-date box office at a 16 percent increase over last year.
"We're headed toward a record breaking summer," said Dergarabedian. "If you've got a blockbuster in the pipeline, you're very happy about all the strength of the box office right now. Momentum is key in this business."
That's good news for the two blockbusters opening next weekend: "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" and "Terminator Salvation."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Angels & Demons," $48 million.
2. "Star Trek," $43 million.
3. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," $14.8 million.
4. "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," $6.9 million.
5. "Obsessed," $4.6 million.
6. "17 Again," $3.4 million.
7. "Monsters vs. Aliens," $3 million.
8. "The Soloist," $2.4 million.
9. "Next Day Air," $2.2 million.
10. "Earth," $1.7 million.
Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Rogue Pictures are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; DreamWorks, Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros., New Line, Warner Independent and Picturehouse are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.