LOS ANGELES – A cartoon bear and deer talked their way to the top of the box office as Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher's animated comedy "Open Season" debuted with $23 million.
Kutcher also finished in second place with Disney's "The Guardian," in which he co-stars with Kevin Costner as Coast Guard rescue swimmers. The action drama opened with $17.7 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The previous weekend's leading flick, Paramount's "Jackass Number Two," fell to third place with $14 million, raising its 10-day total to $51.5 million.
The weekend's other new wide release, the MGM-Weinstein Co. comedy "School for Scoundrels," opened at No. 4 with $9.1 million. The movie stars Jon Heder ("Napoleon Dynamite") as a wimpy meter maid caught up in a war of wills with a con man (Billy Bob Thornton) who teaches an extreme confidence-building class.
Hollywood snapped out of a box-office lull that had persisted most of September. The top-12 movies took in $85.1 million, up 13 percent from the same weekend last year.
"It sort of broke the little mini-fall slump we were in," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Sony scored a record 11th movie debuting at No. 1 this year with "Open Season," featuring the voice of Lawrence as a domesticated bear uprooted from his cozy home and hurled into the wild, where he's befriended by a slick-talking deer (Kutcher).
"Open Season" was the debut release from Sony Pictures Animation, a unit the studio hopes to establish as a regular producer of digital cartoons alongside such industry pioneers as Pixar Animation and DreamWorks Animation.
"It's a great first step," said Yair Landau, president of Sony Pictures Digital. "It takes years and multiple films to build a brand, and certainly we'd like audiences to think of us in the pantheon."
Two Academy Award contenders about real-world leaders, Fox Searchlight's "The Last King of Scotland" and Miramax's "The Queen," opened strongly in limited release.
"The Last King of Scotland," with best-actor prospect Forest Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, took in $143,252 in four theaters over the weekend in New York City and Los Angeles. The film has grossed $172,389 since opening Wednesday.
Featuring James McAvoy as a Scottish doctor drawn into a dangerous relationship as Amin's personal physician, the film expands to more cities this week.
Opening Saturday, Stephen Frears' "The Queen," starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, took in a whopping $123,000 in just two days at three New York City theaters.
Costarring Michael Sheen as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the film examines the furor over the royal family's aloofness in the wake of Princess Diana's death in 1997. "The Queen" expands to more theaters this Friday.
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. "Open Season," $23 million.
2. "The Guardian," $17.7 million.
3. "Jackass Number Two," $14 million.
4. "School for Scoundrels," $9.1 million.
5. "Jet Li's Fearless," $4.7 million.
6. "Gridiron Gang," $4.5 million.
7. "The Illusionist," $2.8 million.
8. "Flyboys," $2.3 million.
9. "The Black Dahlia," $2.1 million.
10. "Little Miss Sunshine," $2 million.