The Warner Bros. animated penguin romp "Happy Feet" debuted with $42.3 million, grabbing an edge for the weekend's No. 1 slot over Sony's Bond adventure "Casino Royale," which opened with $40.6 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The two films were close enough that their rankings could change when final numbers are released Monday.
"'Happy Feet' is just ahead by a flipper," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "It's unusual to have two movies this close, battling for that No. 1 position."
Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner, said "Happy Feet" was solidly ahead and that the rankings would not flip-flop on Monday.
"It's not going to happen," Fellman said. "It's a clear victory here."
"Casino Royale" took an early lead over "Happy Feet" on opening day because of strong adult audiences Friday night. "Happy Feet" dominated the rest of the weekend, drawing big crowds on Saturday and Sunday when family films do their best business.
The box-office leader the last two weekends, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," slipped to third with $14.35 million, lifting its total to $90.5 million.
With the rarity of two movies in the $40 million range, Hollywood had a robust weekend, the top 12 movies taking in $133.6 million. Still, that could not measure up to the same weekend a year ago, when the $102.3 million debut of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" paced the top 12 to a $171.9 million total.
"Happy Feet" features the voices of Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Robin Williams in the story of an penguin who cannot carry a tune like his brethren but can tap-dance up a storm.
"Casino Royale," introducing Daniel Craig as British super-spy Bond, fell right between the debuts of the previous two 007 flicks, which had been No. 1 and 2 among the franchise's openings.
The last Bond movie, Pierce Brosnan's "Die Another Day," holds the franchise record with $47.1 million in November 2002. Brosnan's 1999 Bond adventure "The World Is Not Enough" premiered with $35.5 million in November 1999.
"I think a $40 million-plus start for a new series of Bonds with Daniel Craig is a great beginning," said Jeff Blake, Sony vice chairman. "Casino Royale" also brought in $42.2 million in Great Britain, Russia and 25 other countries where it opened this weekend, Blake said.
In narrower release, two other new movies bombed, Universal's jailhouse comedy "Let's Go to Prison" taking in $2.1 million and Fox Searchlight's junk-food chronicle "Fast Food Nation" grossing $390,000.
Christopher Guest's Hollywood spoof "For Your Consideration" debuted strongly in limited release with $394,000 at 23 theaters. The film released by Warner Independent features a huge ensemble including director Guest, co-writer Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara in a comedy about Academy Awards fever among the cast of a small Hollywood drama.
Emilio Estevez's Robert Kennedy saga "Bobby" opened well with $67,000 in just two theaters. From the Weinstein Co. and MGM, "Bobby" features an all-star cast including Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Anthony Hopkins and Lindsay Lohan in the story of people gathered at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night Kennedy was assassinated there in 1968.
"Bobby" and "For Your Consideration" expand to nationwide release this week.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Happy Feet," $42.3 million.
2. "Casino Royale," $40.6 million.
3. "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," $14.35 million.
4. "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," $8.2 million.
5. "Flushed Away," $6.8 million.
6. "Stranger Than Fiction," $6.6 million.
7. "Babel," $2.9 million.
8. "Saw III," $2.8 million.
9. "The Departed," $2.6 million.
10. "The Queen," $2.3 million.