"It's one of those movies, pardon the pun, firing on all cylinders. When you have Will Ferrell and NASCAR, you just know you are going to have a crowd pleaser. But this was way beyond expectations," said Rory Bruer, president of distribution for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Also entering the box office race with a surprising debut was the animated movie "Barnyard: The Original Party Animals," placing second with $16 million.
"It was at the high end of anybody's expectations. We're thrilled," said Don Harris, executive vice president for distribution at Paramount Pictures, noting recent soft openings for the animated movies "Monster House" and "Ant Bully."
Overall, box office revenue for the top dozen films was up 17 percent over the same week last year, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., which tracks box office performance.
"Hollywood's on a roll. Last year at this time it was all gloom and doom. Eighteen of the past 20 weekends have been up over last year. This is a terrific summer," Dergarabedian said.
As for "Talladega Nights," he said: "It's reinvigorated the box office. Everybody loves Will Ferrell. You know you are going to have a good time and NASCAR is an utterly American sport."
Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" earned another $11 million to place third with attendance dropping 46 percent over the previous week. "Pirates" has earned $380 million after five weeks in North America theaters.
"Miami Vice" earned $9.7 million in its second week of release to slip to No. 4, "The Descent" earned $8.8 million for fifth, "John Tucker Must Die" was sixth with $6.05 million in its second week, "Monster House" was No. 7 with $6 million and "Ant Bully" was eighth with $3.9 million.
Rounding out the Top 10 were "The Night Listener" and "You, Me and Dupree," placing ninth and 10th with a too-close-to-call $3.6 million apiece.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," $47 million.
2. "Barnyard: The Original Party Animals," $16 million.
3. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," $11 million.
4. "Miami Vice," $9.7 million.
5. "The Descent," $8.8 million.
6. "John Tucker Must Die," $6.05 million.
7. "Monster House," $6 million.
8. "The Ant Bully," $3.9 million.
9. "The Night Listener," $3.6 million.
10. "You, Me and Dupree," $3.6 million.