The "Shrek" spinoff "Puss in Boots" landed on all fours, opening with an estimated $34 million to lead the box office.
The DreamWorks 3-D animated film, distributed by Paramount Pictures, proved the popular character voiced by Antonio Banderas was a big enough draw outside the "Shrek" franchise.
The PG-rated "Puss in Boots" scored with family audiences on the weekend before Halloween and also drew a large Hispanic crowd, which made up 35 percent of its audience.
Though the box office for the top 12 movies was up 7.8 percent from the corresponding weekend last year, it was still affected by both the unseasonable winter storm on the East Coast and the appeal of the game 7 broadcast of the World Series on Friday night. DreamWorks estimated the storm took off several million dollars from "Puss in Boots."
The new release on the weekend from 20th Century Fox, the Justin Timberlake sci-fi thriller "In Time," was down as much as 20 percent Saturday in markets like New York and Philadelphia.
But the largest estimated opening didn't happen in North America. "The Adventures of Tintin," which is being distributed overseas by Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures, opened in 19 international markets and hauled in $55.8 million.
The performance-capture 3-D animated film, directed by Steven Spielberg and adapted from the beloved Belgian comic series, was especially popular in France, where its $21.5 million was the largest opening for a non-sequel Hollywood film. The film opens in the U.S. on Dec. 21.
"We're still waiting for the holiday season to kick in in earnest as we get into November," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "The holiday season is going to be very strong at the box office."
Paramount also claimed the weekend's second top performing movie with the low-budget horror flick "Paranormal Activity 3." That film took in $18.5 million in its second week of release, bringing its cumulative total to $81.3 million. Paramount's "Footloose" was the fourth film on the weekend, adding $5.4 million for a three-week total of $38.4 million.
"In Time" opened with $12 million domestically but took in more ($14.5 million) overseas.
The biggest disappointment was "The Rum Diary," the Hunter S. Thompson adaption starring Johnny Depp. It earned just $5 million, a low figure for a film headlined by Depp that cost an estimated $50 million to make.
But the solid opening for "Puss in Boots" was much needed for DreamWorks. The company said Tuesday its net income fell by half in the third quarter as its early summer release, "Kung Fu Panda 2," did not haul in as much at the box office as last year's "Shrek Forever After."
Reviews and audience reaction have been positive for "Puss in Boots." Its release date was moved up a week to essentially give the film more time to run in theaters before other large fall movies are released. It added $17 million internationally, with most of that coming from Russia.
"We always looked at this as a two-weekend release strategy, so we think we've got a good start on that plan," said Anne Globe, head of worldwide marketing and consumer products at DreamWorks. "Being the No. 1 movie and the likely Halloween weekend record-breaker, we're well-positioned to go into week two, as well as play through the holidays."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Puss in Boots," $34 million.
2. "Paranormal Activity 3," $18.5 million.
3. "In Time," $12 million.
4. "Footloose," $5.4 million.
5. "The Rum Diary," $5 million.
6. "Real Steel," $4.7 million.
7. "The Three Musketeers," $3.5 million.
8. "The Ides of March," $2.7 million.
9. "Moneyball," $2.4 million.
10. "Courageous," $1.8 million.
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "The Adventures of Tintin," $55.8 million.
2. "Puss in Boots," $17 million.
3. "Paranormal Activity," $17 million.
4. "In Time," $14.5 million.
5. "The Three Musketeers," $12.8 million.
6. "Real Steel," $12.2 million.
7. "Johnny English Reborn," 12 million.
8. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," $9.1 million.
9. "Contagion," $8.4 million.
10. "The Help," $3.5 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.