By Lisa Richwine and Andrea Burzynski
(Reuters) - Car chase sequel "Fast & Furious 6" kept racing at U.S. and Canadian box offices, outpacing rival movies for a second straight weekend and finishing far in front of Will Smith's new sci-fi film "After Earth."
"Fast & Furious" racked up $34.5 million from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates. The sixth installment in the billion-dollar franchise takes the action to London, where stars Vin Diesel and Dwyane Johnson lead their crew on a mission to take down an international ring of mercenary drivers.
Comedy heist caper "Now You See Me" yielded a stronger-than-expected $28.1 million in its debut at U.S. and Canadian theaters, finishing second.
The post-apocalyptic "After Earth," starring Smith and his teenage son, Jaden Smith, placed third with $27 million. Analysts had expected a $35-million to $40-million opening.
"Fast & Furious" maintained its speed after a roaring debut over Memorial Day weekend. Worldwide ticket sales reached $480.6 million through Sunday, according to Universal Pictures, the Comcast Corp unit that released the movie.
Distributor Universal said that "Fast 6" has outearned international lifetime totals for each of the first four films in the franchise, and was on track to surpass the fifth.
Critically panned "After Earth" settled for a third-place debut.
The $130-million production takes place 1,000 years after an apocalypse forced humans to abandon Earth. A boy and his father become stranded on the planet after a crash landing and look for help.
Critics assailed "After Earth," with just 12 percent recommending the film on Rotten Tomatoes, a website that aggregates movie reviews.
Distributor Sony Pictures, a unit of Japan's Sony Corp, said it expects the film to do well internationally.
"This has always been a worldwide play," said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' president of worldwide distribution. "We would have liked the movie to have done better domestically and I think people will be pretty happy about it when they see the international rollout."
Bruer said the studio expects well over half of the film's gross to come from international sales. "After Earth" will open in 60 countries next week, and several more throughout June.
"Now You See Me" beat projections for weekend sales of up to $20 million. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg in the story of street magicians who stage large-scale shows during which they rob banks and distribute money to the audience.
It cost $75 million to produce, according to the website Box Office Mojo.
Tied for fourth were the sci-fi sequel "Star Trek Into Darkness," and animated family film "Epic," each of which took in $16.4 million in domestic sales.
"The Hangover Part III" took in $15.9 million to capture fifth place.
"Epic" was distributed by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp. "Star Trek Into Darkness" was released by Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures. "Now You See Me" was distributed by Summit Entertainment, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment. "The Hangover Part III" was distributed by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc.
(Additional reporting by Ronald Grover,; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Xavier Briand)