By Lisa Richwine and Andrea Burzynski
(Reuters) - Tom Cruise's post-apocalyptic thriller "Oblivion" wiped out the box office competition, racking up $38.2 million in weekend ticket sales during its U.S. and Canadian debut.
The debut of "Oblivion" knocked baseball movie "42" into second place. The drama about Jackie Robinson, the first black player in the Major Leagues, earned $18 million from Friday through Sunday after leading the charts a week ago.
In third place, animated Stone Age comedy "The Croods" earned $9.5 million during its fifth weekend in theaters, according to studio estimates. Global sales for the Dreamworks Animation production were estimated at $429.4 million through Sunday, according to distributor Twentieth Century Fox International.
"Oblivion," a story set in 2077 about the last humans on Earth, opened a week earlier to strong results in overseas markets. The North American (U.S. and Canadian) results exceeded pre-weekend forecasts for debut sales in the low- to mid-$30 million range, and earned Cruise his biggest opening since the "Mission Impossible" films.
In "Oblivion," Cruise plays a man who repairs the drones that monitor the nearly empty Earth while its last human inhabitants search for a new home. Morgan Freeman co-stars.
Nikki Rocco, president for domestic distribution at Universal Studios, said that Universal was "very happy" with the opening, and credited the marketing team as well as the timing of the film's release for its strong results. Universal Studios is a unit of Comcast Corp.
Combined with international receipts, the movie's global sales stood at $150.2 million Sunday. The movie cost about $120 million to produce.
No other movies were released nationwide over the weekend.
Rounding out the top five, horror spoof "Scary Movie 5" grossed $6.3 million, and action sequel "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" took in $5.8 million.
Overall, movie ticket sales for 2013 reached $2.76 billion, running 11.2 percent behind the same point last year, according to the box office division of Hollywood.com.
The summer blockbuster season, when studios release their big-budget, effects-filled action movies and sequels, kicks off May 3 with "Iron Man 3" from Walt Disney Co's Marvel studio.
Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp, released "Oblivion." Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. distributed "42." "The Croods" was produced by Dreamworks Animation and distributed by News Corp's 20th Century Fox. The privately held Weinstein Co released "Scary Movie 5." Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc, released "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Andrea Burzynski; Editing by Vicki Allen and Philip Barbara)