Ho-hum, ho-hum, another No. 1.
Brave, the animated fairy tale from Pixar, coasted to the top spot at theaters this weekend, giving the studio an unprecedented 13th straight No. 1 film.
The story of a Scottish princess who dreams of becoming an archer collected $66.7 million, according to studio estimates from tracking firm Hollywood.com. Analysts projected that the film would earn about $55 million.
Though the film was expected to be No. 1 - Pixar's one-movie-a-year strategy has made its releases a summer viewing staple among families - the debut still marked a comeback of sorts for Pixar. Last year's Cars 2 was the studio's first negatively reviewed film (though it took in $191.5 million).
Brave saw no such critical shrug. The movie earned a thumbs-up from 74% of the nation's critics, according to Rottentomatoes.com. Fan support was even stronger: 85% of moviegoers liked it, the survey site says.
The film "is a great rebound from the cash grab that was Cars 2," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com.
Gitesh Pandya of Boxofficeguru.com says Brave, voiced by Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson, got a box-office boost from technology.
The film enjoyed an "advantage of 3-D surcharges," he says. "Pixar is a brand people find worth paying extra for."
Brave knocked another cartoon from the top perch: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted was second with $20.2 million.
Teen boys had an option this weekend in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which met most analysts' expectations with $16.5 million and third place. Though critics feasted on the R-rated monster film - only 39% recommended it - about three-fourths of audiences liked it, Rottentomatoes.com says.
The Alien prequel Prometheus took fourth place with $10 million, followed by another fairy tale, Snow White & The Huntsman, which took No. 5 with $8 million.
Final figures are out Monday.
Ticket sales have climbed 9% over last year's pace, and attendance is up 11% ahead over 2011, Hollywood.com says.
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY