"'Inception' has seeped into the cultural zeitgeist," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "It's something that everyone is talking about right now. When a movie is able to do that and something just clicks, it becomes a national -- even an international -- discussion, and it's seemingly impervious to any of the newcomers."
"Dinner for Schmucks," the Paramount comedy starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, followed closely behind "Inception" with $23.3 million, while the Warner Bros. 3-D sequel "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" fetched $12.5 million in the No. 5 spot. "Charlie St. Cloud," the Universal Pictures drama starring Zac Efron, debuted at No. 6 with $12.1 million.
"For us to clearly be the runaway of the three new films this weekend and come as close as we did to 'Inception,' which is a wonderful movie, is pretty solid," said Don Harris, Paramount's vice president of distribution. "With a Zac Efron movie and a 3-D sequel to a popular movie, I think people expected it to be a horse race, but it really wasn't."
"Salt" clung to No. 3 with $19.2 million in its second weekend, bringing its total to a solid $70.8 million. The Sony spy caper starring Angelina Jolie as a CIA operative who goes rogue suffered a 47 percent drop from its $36.5 million opening weekend. During the busy summer movie season, top hits often drop 50 percent or more in the second weekend.
Overall revenues rose for the fifth-straight weekend as Hollywood continued to recover from a lackluster box office earlier in the summer. Receipts totaled $145 million, up over 15 percent from the same weekend last year, when receipts totaled $125.7 million and the Judd Apatow film "Funny People" debuted in the No. 1 spot with $22.6 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Inception," $27.5 million.
2. "Dinner for Schmucks," $23.3 million.
3. "Salt," $19.2 million.
4. "Despicable Me," $15.5 million.
5. "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," $12.5 million.
6. "Charlie St. Cloud," $12.1 million.
7. "Toy Story 3," $5 million.
8. "Grown Ups," $4.5 million.
9. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," $4.3 million.
10."The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," $3.9 million.