Weekend moviegoers chose sci-fi over slapstick.
"Ender's Game" scored the No. 1 slot at the weekend box office, earning $28 million in its opening weekend and sendinginto second place, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Lionsgate's adaptation earned an additional $2 million in five international territories.
Based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, "Ender's Game" stars Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford as intergalactic soldiers. Sir Ben Kingsley, who also appears in the film, "The movie is spectacular, but it has at its heart, this wonderful, universal struggle - will I make it through these years?"
Comments made by Card expressing opposition to gay marriage led some to call for a boycott of the film.for the film, but a strong first-place opening met the studio's pre-weekend expectations.
However, ticket sales didn't come close to the opening weekends of other young-adult adaptations such as "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games." It did fare better than "Beautiful Creatures" and "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones."
"'Ender's Game' is a big budget movie that could be the start of a franchise," said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Rentrak. "This time of year is not exactly a hotbed of million-dollar openings, but once they launch worldwide, it will do well."
A representative for Lionsgate declined to be interviewed for this story.
Paramount's candid-camera comedy starring Johnny Knoxville disguised as an old man brought in an additional $20.5 million in its second weekend, with a domestic total reaching more than $62 million. It also picked up $6 million in international ticket sales.
Other films opening this weekend didn't generate as much enthusiasm.
CBS Films' "Last Vegas," featuring an all-star cast of silver screen veterans including Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, opened in third place, with $16.5 million.
"It's interesting to see the number of stars that are not in their 20s in the top films," Dergarabedian said. "'Ender's Game' has Harrison Ford and Viola Davis, and 'Last Vegas' is like a 'Hangover' for the older crowd. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (in 'Gravity') appeal to an older audience, andwhich continues to impress as it expands into more and more theaters, is a very sophisticated drama."
Relativity Media's 3D animated kiddie flick "Free Birds," with characters voiced by Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler, debuted in the fourth spot, with $16.2 million.
After its fifth weekend at the box office, the Warner Bros. 3D stunner "Gravity" is still holding in the fifth position. It banked $13.1 million over the weekend, bringing its domestic total to $220 million. Internationally, it gained $27.1 million.
Considered an Oscar contender, "12 Years a Slave" earned $4.6 million at No. 7 in its third weekend.
Overseas, Disney'searned an impressive $109.4 million in its first international weekend. The Marvel superhero sequel opens domestically next weekend.
With the opening of "Thor: The Dark World," Disney's cumulative international box office for 2013 has passed the studio's previous international record of $2.303 billion, which was set in 2010.