NEW YORK — Adding to Hollywood’s sizzling summer, the shark thriller “The Meg” opened well above expectations with an estimated $44.5 million in ticket sales, while Spike Lee had his best debut in a decade.

“The Meg” had been forecast by some analysts for closer to half that total. An American-Chinese co-production between Warner Bros. and China’s Gravity Pictures, it also debuted well overseas, taking in $50.3 million in China and totaling $96.8 million internationally, according to studio estimates Sunday.

With an international cast led by Jason Statham and featuring Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson and Winston Chao, “The Meg” cost at least $130 million to make.

Following hits like “The Shallows” and “47 Meters Down,” the shark movie – 43 years after Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” – has been showing surprising bite at the box office. Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros., said late summer was ideal timing for “The Meg.”

“This was a fun, dumb popcorn movie that just looked interesting,” Goldstein said.

– From news service reports

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