A new Disney princess has ascended to the box-office throne with a number one debut for Pixar Animation's Brave.
The latest from the makers of WALL-E, Finding Nemo and the Toy Story movies opened with $US66.7 million ($A66.56 million) domestically, according to studio estimates Sunday. Brave added $US13.5 million in 10 overseas markets for a worldwide start of $US80.2 million.
Featuring a feisty Scottish princess, Brave is the first of Disney Pixar's animated films to have a female protagonist. And it left American hero Abraham Lincoln in the dust.
The 20th Century Fox action tale Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opened far back at number three with $US16.5 million, behind Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.
DreamWorks' animated Madagascar sequel had been number one for two weekends and added $US20.2 million to raise its domestic total to $US157.6 million.
Brave is the 13th-straight Pixar release to open at number one since Toy Story launched Hollywood's age of computer animation in 1995.
'Their track record is just unbelievable,' said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
'The Pixar brand just carries so much weight with the audience, it doesn't matter almost what the story is about if it has the Pixar name.'
The weekend's other new wide release, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley's apocalyptic romance Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, misfired with just $US3.8 million, debuting at number 10.
The Focus Features film, playing in much narrower release than other top-10 movies, stars Carell and Knightley as heartbroken neighbours on a road trip as a killer asteroid hurtles toward Earth.
Woody Allen's Italian romance To Rome with Love pulled in huge audiences in limited release, debuting with $US379,371 in five theatres. That gave the Sony Pictures Classics release a whopping average of $US75,874 a theatre, compared to $US16,028 in more than 4,000 cinemas for Brave.
Brave features a voice cast led by Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson in a mother-daughter story of a young Scottish princess defying tradition that requires her to marry against her will.
The film proved that audiences will turn up for a female hero, not just the male protagonists of past Pixar flicks, such as Woody and Buzz of Toy Story, the robot of WALL-E or the rat and his chef buddy of Ratatouille.
Brave matched the $US66.1 million debut of Pixar's Cars 2, with male automotive lead Lightning McQueen, over the same weekend a year ago.
'It is a phenomenal thing, these guys and their mastery of big storytelling and character development, delivering something that plays well to adults as well as kids, to girls as well as boys,' Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution, said of Pixar.
The audience for Brave did lean toward females, who accounted for 57 per cent of viewers. Two-thirds of the film's business came from families, who also continued to flock to Madagascar 3, making a rare weekend when two PG-rated movies led the box office.
The R-rated Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a clever idea - the 16th US president waging his own civil war against the blood-suckers of the republic. But critics were unimpressed, and action fans had only a passing interest in the movie, which featured relative unknown Benjamin Walker as Lincoln.
Still, it was made for $US69 million, a modest budget for a summer action movie, and 20th Century Fox had hopes it would hold up well over the next week or so before The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises swoop in to take over cinemas in July.
'It's actually a good start for this movie,' said Chris Aronson, the studio's head of distribution. 'This is an interesting and untested genre that I think audiences are going to continue to seek out. Mash-ups have been done, but the historical mash-up has not been done.'
Estimated ticket sales were for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. Brave, $US66.7 million ($US13.5 million international).
2. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, $US20.2 million ($US30.1 million international).
3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, $US16.5 million ($US8.1 million international).
4. Prometheus, $US10 million ($US12.7 million international).
5. Snow White the Huntsman, $US8.01 million ($22.6 million international).
6. Rock of Ages, $US8 million ($US2.9 million international).
7. That's My Boy, $US7.9 million ($US900,000 international).
8. The Avengers, $US7 million ($US2.3 million international).
9. Men in Black 3, $US5.6 million ($US10.5 million international).
10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, $US3.8 million