'Wreck-It Ralph' wins weekend box office

John C. Reilly voices the role of Ralph in Walt Disney Pictures' "Wreck-It Ralph."

Story highlights

  • Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" topped the box office with $49.1 million
  • "Wreck-It" had the strongest debut ever for a Disney Animation production
  • "Flight" was No. 2 with $25 million
  • Arriving at No. 3 was Ben Affleck's "Argo"

"Doom" may have flopped, and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" may have been all buzz and no buck, but Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" proved that there is a place for videogame-themed movies at the box office this weekend.

The $165 million animated film topped the chart with $49.1 million out of 3,752 theaters — the strongest debut ever for a Walt Disney Animation production (i.e., not including Pixar titles). Disney's "Tangled" opened with a whopping $48.8 million over the more lucrative Thanksgiving weekend in 2010, so "Wreck-It Ralph's" slightly larger bow (and its hefty $13,086 per theater average) should be viewed as a major victory for the Mouse House.

Now the studio is looking ahead not only to Thanksgiving, but Christmas as well, both huge moviegoing seasons since kids are out of school and parents are off of work.

"There really are few things for families in the time between now and then," says Dave Hollis, Disney's Executive Vice President of Domestic Distribution, who cites DreamWorks' "Rise of the Guardians" and Disney's own 3-D re-release of "Monsters, Inc." as the only animated competition for the rest of 2012. "[We] have great word-of-mouth and a story that resonates," Hollis says. "We feel really good about where we're headed for the rest of this run."

Disney has every right to feel good. "Wreck-It Ralph" earned an "A" CinemaScore grade from polled audiences, and very positive reactions will help the film hold up even better than a typical family film would anyway.

The Robert Zemeckis-directed drama "Flight" soared in second place with $25 million from just 1,884 theaters, giving the $31 million Paramount film the strongest per theater average in the Top 20, with $13,275.

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For star Denzel Washington, one of the few actors working today who can legitimately be called a box office draw, "Flight" marks his second hit of 2012. His last picture, "Safe House," opened in February with $40.2 million on the way to a $126.2 million finish.

While it remains to be seen whether "Flight" will fly that high, a finish above $100 million certainly seems likely given the film's strong reviews, awards buzz and "A-" CinemaScore grade. Fellow adult-targeting drama "Argo" opened substantially lower (with $19.8 million) in substantially more theaters (3,232 to be exact), and, as you'll read in a moment, is headed past the $100 million mark thanks to slim declines. With better per-theater averages and room for expansion, "Flight" should enjoy a similar fate.

Speaking of "Argo," the Ben Affleck-helmed thriller finished in third place in its fourth weekend, dropping only 15 percent to $10.2 million (anytime a film is still in double digits after four frames, you know it's clicking with crowds). That lifts its total to $75.9 million. Warner Bros.' $45 million investment is proving to have been a smart one — the film is earning massive Oscar buzz and will pass the $100 million mark in the next few weeks. That last Ben Affleck vehicle to gross $100 million was 2003′s "Daredevil," which earned $102.5 million. Welcome back, Affleck!

The martial arts picture "The Man with the Iron Fists" debuted in fourth place with $8.2 million — certainly not a knockout result, but in line with studio expectations considering American audiences have never consistently taken to flying daggers and karate chops. Fortunately, Universal spent only $15 million on the film, which was directed by RZA.

The studio boasted producer Quentin Tarantino's name heavily in advertising, but audiences, which were 64 percent male and 53 percent below the age of 30, didn't take the bait. Those that did see the film weren't especially enthusiastic and issued "Fists" a "C+" CinemaScore grade.

Rounding out the top five was "Taken 2," which fell 22 percent in its fifth frame to $6 million and has now grossed $125.7 million in North America. Though Fox's $45 million sequel will finish a tad below the original "Taken's" $145 million domestic finish, it has more than made up for that fact overseas, where "Taken 2" has grossed $210.8 million (the original "Taken" found $81 million internationally). All told, the Liam Neeson picture has grossed a tremendous $336.6 million worldwide.

1. "Wreck-It Ralph" -- $49.1 million

2. "Flight" -- $25.0 million

3. "Argo" -- $10.2 million

4. "The Man with the Iron Fists" -- $8.2 million

5. "Taken 2" -- $6.0 million

The biggest story at the box office this weekend, however, doesn't have anything to do with the domestic chart. "Skyfall," the 23rd James Bond picture, grossed an incredible $156 million this weekend internationally, giving it a remarkable 10-day total of $287 million — by far the best ever initial numbers for the Bond franchise. For perspective, "Quantum of Solace," which finished with $417 million internationally, didn't achieve that total until its fourth week of release.

"Skyfall's" best market was once again the United Kingdom, where it fell only 21 percent in its second frame to $25.7 million, good for an $85.8 million total. The film's top new market was Germany, where it earned $23.9 million — the best opening of 2012 in that country.

"Skyfall" debuts in the U.S. next weekend, and taking into account how engaged the rest of the world seems to be by the film (and taking into account its glowing reviews), it's looking increasingly likely that "Skyfall" will score the best debut ever for a Bond film — perhaps in the $80 million range.

See the full story at EW.com.