It's both a bear and bull market for Hollywood.
The bear is "Ted," Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane's comedy for Universal Pictures about a talking teddy bear, which opened as the No. 1 movie with $54.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The two new movies were backed by a deep bench, with Pixar Animation's Disney fairy tale "Brave" holding up well at No. 3 with $34 million in its second weekend. "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection," the latest from the dependable breadwinner for Lionsgate Films, opened solidly at No. 4 with $26.4 million.
The four movies combined to keep Hollywood in the money compared to the same weekend last year, when "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" launched with $97.9 million.
"Ted's" opening was the third-highest R-rated comedy debut, behind last year's "Hangover 2" ($85.9 million) and 2010's "Sex and the City 2" ($57 million), but it was the biggest ever R-rated non-sequel comedy opening.
It was an equally big weekend overseas, where two huge franchises got a head-start on their U.S. openings.
The 20th Century Fox animated sequel "Ice Age: Continental Drift" opened with $78 million in 34 international markets, while Sony's "The Amazing Spider-Man" debuted with $50.2 million in 13 markets. "Amazing Spider-Man" opens domestically Tuesday for the Fourth of July weekend, while "Continental Drift" has its U.S. debut July 13.
Domestic revenues totaled $207.7 million, up 3 percent from the same weekend in 2011, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com. That was quite an accomplishment, considering the Fourth of July fell on Monday last year, making it a long holiday weekend.
"It was absolutely astonishing that we're beating the same weekend a year ago given the enormity of the film, the big sci-fi blockbuster that opened then," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "This played out like a holiday weekend without it really being a holiday weekend. It speaks volumes about the importance of having a wide variety of films in the marketplace."
The only one that didn't work among new wide releases was the sibling drama "People Like Us," which tanked at No. 10 with $4.3 million. A DreamWorks release distributed by Disney, the movie features Chris Pine (Captain Kirk of "Star Trek") as a man who gets himself into an awkward relationship with the half-sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had.
"Ted" stars Wahlberg as a guy whose stuffed bear magically came to life when he was a boy, the two growing up together to become slacker, party-boy roommates. Writer-director MacFarlane, the creator of TV's "Family Guy," provides the voice of the bear, while "Family Guy" voice co-star Mila Kunis plays Wahlberg's girlfriend.
The idea of a cuddly teddy bear combined with a foul mouth and MacFarlane's wicked sense of humor caught fire with audiences, who lifted "Ted" far beyond the opening of $35 million or less that Hollywood generally expected.
"In my heart of hearts, I just felt that everybody was starting to talk about this talking bear, and everyone loves Seth MacFarlane, people love his show," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. "And the marketing campaign did a great job of telling people how fabulous this picture is for an R-rated audience."
"Magic Mike" also far outstripped industry expectations. The weekend was a rare instance where two R-rated movies opened at Nos. 1 and 2, and it followed another unusual weekend where two PG-rated movies ("Brave" and "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted") led the box office.
Directed by Soderbergh, "Magic Mike" is inspired by Tatum's early career as a male stripper and features him as a veteran dancer who takes a newcomer (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing.
The beefcake factor of Tatum, Pettyfer and co-star Matthew McConaughey strutting their stuff had women packing theaters in a way that distributor Warner Bros. had not seen since its "Sex and the City" flicks. Female fans made up 73 percent of the "Magic Mike" crowds.
"'Magic Mike' just didn't have the brand that 'Sex and the City' had for so many years," said Dan Fellman, Warner's head of distribution. "The fact that it performed in the same vein was a great surprise."
"Brave" raised its domestic haul to $131.7 million and has added $26.8 million in its slow rollout overseas for a worldwide total of $158.5 million.
The first Perry release in summer, "Madea's Witness Protection" earned 70 percent of its revenue from black audiences, down from the filmmaker's usual 80 percent, as funnyman Levy and co-star Denise Richards gave it more appeal among whites.
Like "Ted" and "Magic Mike," ''Madea's Witness Protection" did better than Hollywood anticipated. David Spitz, head of distribution for Lionsgate, said movie-going just seems to be in the air, especially considering the 100-degree heat gripping much of the nation.
"People don't want to be outside in a heat wave, so it's one of those weekends where benefited from the weather," Spitz said.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight's Louisiana story "Beasts of the Southern Wild" opened strongly with $169,236 in four theaters, for an average of $42,309 a cinema. That compares to an average of $16,705 in 3,239 theaters for "Ted."
The top dramatic prize winner at last January's Sundance Film Festival, "Beasts" is the survival story of a young girl living with her ailing, boozing father as a storm approaches the Delta wilds.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Ted," $54.1 million.
2. "Magic Mike," $39.2 million.
3. "Brave," $34 million ($6.7 million international).
4. "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection," $26.4 million.
5. "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," $11.8 million ($16.2 million international).
6. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," $6 million ($5 million international).
7. "Prometheus," $4.93 million ($6.2 million international).
8. "Moonrise Kingdom," $4.9 million ($375,000 international).
9. "Snow White & the Huntsman," $4.4 million ($14.5 million international).
10. "People Like Us," $4.3 million.
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "Ice Age: Continental Drift," $78 million.
2. "The Amazing Spider-Man," $50.2 million.
3. "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," $16.2 million.
4. "Snow White & the Huntsman," $14.5 million.
5. "Brave," $6.7 million.
6. "Men in Black 3," $6.4 million.
7. "Prometheus," $6.2 million.
8. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," $5 million.
9. "Dark Shadows," $4.2 million.
10. "The Dictator," $2.5 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.