LOS ANGELES — The forgetful blue fish of "Finding Dory" is box office gold. The Pixar sequel far-surpassed its already Ocean-sized expectations to take in $136.2 million in North American theaters, making it the highest-grossing animated debut of all time, according to comScore estimates Sunday. The 2007 film "Shrek the Third" was the previous record-holder with a $121.6 million debut.
"Finding Dory," which comes 13 years after "Finding Nemo" hit theaters, is also now the second-largest June opening of all time behind "Jurassic World." The well-reviewed film features the voices of Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks and played particularly well with audiences, who gave the film an A CinemaScore — Pixar's 17th film in a row to receive the impressive grade.
Going into the weekend, analysts expected "Finding Dory" to do big, $100 million plus business, but never this much.
"The thought was 'could this be the movie to eclipse "Toy Story 3's" opening,' not, 'could it become the biggest animated opening of all time,'" said Paul Dergarabedian, comScore's senior media analyst. "That's the power of the Pixar brand."
"Toy Story 3" was the biggest Pixar opening ever until now with $110.3 million.
Disney's Executive Vice President of Distribution Dave Hollis was particularly heartened that the film did such robust late night business on both Friday and Saturday.
"That's really a testament to this being a picture for everyone — not just for families," Hollis said.
"Finding Dory" has the animated seas to itself until "The Secret Life of Pets" opens July 8.
The Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson buddy comedy "Central Intelligence" also had a relatively muscular weekend, with a better-than-expected $34.5 million, putting it in second place.
"It's a real home run," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.' executive vice president of domestic distribution. "These two comedians are just stars. They connect with their audience and each other in such a strong way. You just laugh when you watch them."
"Central Intelligence" cost a reported $50 million to make and scored especially well with younger audiences, who the studio hopes will propel the word of mouth in weeks to come. The next major comedy releases don't come until mid-July with "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" and "Ghostbusters."
In third place, the James Wan horror pic "The Conjuring 2" fell 62 percent in its second weekend in theaters, earning $15.6 million and bringing its domestic total to $71.7 million.
Rounding out the top five were "Now You See Me 2," with $9.7 million and "Warcraft," with $6.5 million, both of which opened last weekend.
Overall, the weekend is down nearly 5 percent from last year, when "Inside Out" launched with $90.4 million and "Jurassic World" earned $106.6 million in its second weekend in theaters.
Still, Dergarabedian notes that the comparatively big audiences this weekend are good for the business in the long run since they'll be exposed to trailers for upcoming summer films. The success of "Finding Dory" and "Central Intelligence" also comes at a critical moment after a few weekends of underwhelming sequels and all out flops.
"A movie like 'Dory' can reinvigorate a marketplace that has been in the doldrums for the last few weeks," he said. "It helps everyone."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
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