Fears that a female heroine would slow down "Brave" proved unfounded as the animated tentpole opened to a whopping $66.7 million at the domestic box office -- the fifth best debut of all time for a Pixar title.
"Brave," continuing Pixar's unblemished record of opening all of its movies to No. 1, also scored the second highest June opening for an animated pic after Pixar's "Toy Story 3" ($110.3 million). Overseas, the Pixar and Disney title debuted to $13.5 million in 10 markets.
The 3D event pic -- receiving an A CinemaScore in North America -- marks Pixar's 13th film and is the first movie in the company's history to feature a female lead. "Brave" did skew female (57 percent), but got plenty of male attention.
"You have to draw men and boys as well to see this number," Disney executive president of worldwide distribution Dave Hollis said. "The themes in the movie -- bravery, fighting for your fate -- transcend gender."
Hollis credited Pixar/Disney animation chief John Lasseter, producer Katherine Sarafian and directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman for delivering an "enveloping experience" that drew both families (66 percent) and adults.
One troubling statistic: 3D revenues only made up 34 percent of "Brave's" opening gross, furthering worries that families find the upcharge for a 3D ticket too expensive.
Still, family product ruled the box office all the way around. DreamWorks Animation and Paramount holdover "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" fell to No. 2 in its third weekend with an estimated $20.2 million for a domestic cume of roughly $157.6 million ("Madagascar 3" opened to $60.1 million).
Animation also ruled overseas, where "Madagascar 3" stayed at No. 1 for the third weekend in a row, grossing $30.1 million from 44 markets to race past the $200 million mark. The pic has now earned $208.4 million internationally for an impressive worldwide total of $366 million.
Managing only a third-place domestic finish was 20th Century Fox's 3D genre epic "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." The R-rated film, playing like a horror title, grossed a soft $16.5 million in its opening. Fox had predicted a debut in the $15 million range -- considering there are no big stars in the film -- but box office observers believed it could get to $20 million.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and featuring Tim Burton in the producer's seat, "Abraham Lincoln" received a C+ CinemaScore. The pic's cast is led by Benjamin Walker.
"Abraham Lincoln," costing $68 million to produce, features the storied U.S. president as a vampire hunter and is based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the adapted screenplay. The film is an important test for the "mash-up" genre, with Lionsgate queued up to make the film adaptation of Grahame-Smith's book "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
Fox believes "Abraham Lincoln," which skewed male, will have good legs.
"Audiences will continue to seek out Timur's daring and brilliant vision of 'Abraham Lincoln,' " Fox's incoming president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson said.
The news wasn't good for Steve Carell-Keira Knightley indie pic "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," which debuted to $3.8 million from 1,625 locations. The Focus Features title, directed and written by Lorene Scafaria, came in No. 10, just ahead of fellow Focus pic "Moonrise Kingdom," which grossed a pleasing $3.4 million from only 395 theaters for a pleasing cume of $11.6 million.
"It's disappointing. The right people turned up to see "Seeking a Friend," but they didn't come in volume," Focus president of distribution Jack Foley said.
At the specialty box office, Woody Allen's new entry "To Rome With Love" got off to a strong start, grossing $379,371 from five theaters for a sizeable location average of $75,874 -- easily the best of the weekend. Sony Pictures Classics, which distributed Allen's box office hit "Midnight in Paris," is once again handling domestic distribution duties for the filmmaker.
Elsewhere, New Line and Warner Bros.' troubled musical "Rock of Ages" fell to No. 6 in its second weekend, grossing $8 million for a 10-day domestic cume of $28.8 million. Adam Sandler's comedy "That's My Boy," likewise troubled, fell to No. 7 in its second outing, grossing $7.9 million for a 10-day total of $28.2 million.