Solid opening weekend for ‘Daddy’s Home 2,’ as audiences appear ready to forgive Mel Gibson

Americans welcomed Mel Gibson back to the big screen as his comedy “Daddy’s Home 2” scored a solid opening at the box office. Along with a new version of “Murder on the Orient Express,” it contributed to a robust weekend for Hollywood.

“Thor: Ragnarok,” from Walt Disney Co.’s DIS, -1.50%   Marvel Studios, was No. 1 at the box office in the U.S. and Canada, with an estimated $56.6 million in the U.S. and Canada. After playing for two weeks domestically and three overseas, the third film featuring Chris Hemsworth as the comic book god of thunder has grossed $650.1 million world-wide, making it another major hit for Marvel.

“Daddy’s Home 2,” from Viacom Inc.’s VIA, -0.66%   Paramount Pictures, and “Murder” from 21st Century Fox Inc.’s FOX, -1.83%   Twentieth Century Fox, both performed better than studios had been expecting based on prerelease surveys, debuting to $30 million and $28.2 million, respectively.

The first “Daddy’s Home” opened to $38 million in 2015, but that was over the Christmas holiday weekend. The new film is well positioned to draw family audiences through Thanksgiving weekend. It is a much-needed hit for Paramount, which is currently ranked last among Hollywood’s major studios in box office for the sixth straight year and has suffered from a series of recent disappointments including “Suburbicon” and “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

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The healthy start for the film indicates many Americans are willing to embrace Mel Gibson as the star of a family comedy, albeit playing a cantankerous grandfather. “Daddy’s Home 2” marks Gibson’s first starring role in a studio-financed film in 15 years, after he was virtually exiled for anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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