New family film Wreck-It Ralph opened to a record-breaking $49.1 million from 3,752 theaters -- the top weekend debut for a Disney Animation Studios title.
Disney Animation's Tangled, opening over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010, posted a weekend gross of $48.8 million (the film, opening on a Wednesday, grossed a total of $68.6 million in its first five days).
Wreck-It Ralph did especially well on Friday in the Northeast, where families looked for a distraction from the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. Most of the 300 theaters closed early last week because of Sandy were opened by the weekend.
Moviegoing for the weekend on the East Coast was solid, but not spectacular. Still, box office grosses nationwide were up 23 percent over a year ago, when Puss in Boots debuted to $34.1 million.
Overseas, Wreck-It Ralph rolled out in its first six markets, grossing a pleasing $12 million for a worldwide bow of $61.1 million.
The 3D animated toon, nabbing an A CinemaScore domestically, cost $165 million to produce.
Directed by Rich Moore, Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of an arcade game villain -- voiced by John C. Reilly -- who is sick of playing the bad guy and begins game jumping, which is forbidden. The voice cast also includes Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch.
Denzel Washington adult drama Flight, directed by Robert Zemeckis, also overperformed in its debut, grossing $25 million from 1,900 theaters to come in No. 2. The film earned an A- CinemaScore, with nearly 90 percent of the audience over the age of 25.
Paramount is mounting an aggressive awards campaign for the film, with Washington already considered a frontrunner for an Oscar nomination for best actor. The studio hopes to build word of mouth and foster a long run by only opening the film in 1,900 locations. Paramount took a similar approach with The Fighter, which opened to $12.1 million from 2,500 theaters.
Flight, costing $31 million to produce, is Zemeckis' first live-action film since Cast Away.
Awards rival Argo continued to be a crowd pleaser in its fourth weekend, grossing $10.2 million from 2,774 theaters to come in No. 4. The Warner Bros. film has now earned $75.9 million domestically.
Universal's new kung fu pic The Man With the Iron Fists opened to $7.6 million from 1,868 theaters to come in No. 4. The pic, which cost just $15 million to produce, marks the directorial debut of RZA and earned a C+ CinemaScore. Quentin Tarantino presented.