Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedic incarnation Bruno knocked Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen off its perch thanks to an estimated $30.4m number one launch.

The film performed better than its North American distributor Universal expected, and sources said it would become profitable.

The studio reportedly paid $42.5m to Media Rights Capital (MRC) for North American rights and acquired eight further territories, where the mockumentary grossed roughly $20m.

However, the question now is how well the tale of an outrageous, gay Austrian TV presenter’s search for fame in the US will hold up in its second weekend after a troublesome 39% slide from Friday to Saturday that hinted at the film’s vulnerability.

Bruno launched on 2,756 screens, dwarfing Baron Cohen’s previous feature, Borat, which was released by Fox in November 2006 on a mere 837 screens and took $26.5m in its first weekend. It went on to take $128.5m in North America.

MRC CEO and co-founder Modi Wiczyk was upbeat about the $55m worldwide launch – a further $5m overseas came from Sony and Mandate International territories – and said it demonstrated the strength of the material and star.

“Sacha is one of those rare comics whose movies travel,” Wiczyk, who said he had expected the film to open in the region of $25m in North America, said. “Bruno is not only an American affair. This is a vindication of his ferociously unique talent and our business model.” Wiczyk declined to reveal the film’s budget.

  • Fox’s Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs fell 31.6% and held in second place as $28.5m raised the tally after two weekends to $120.6m, while in third place Paramount/DreamWorks’ Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen grossed a further $24.2m following a 42.8% drop in its third weekend for $339.2m. It is comfortably the biggest release of the year-to-date.

  • I Love You, Beth Cooper, the comedy from the now defunct Fox Atomic released through Fox, flopped in seventh place on $5m. Most of the top ten moved down one place. Universal/Relativity’s Public Enemies in fourth place added $14.1m for $66.5m after two weekends.

  • Next weekend’s wide release is Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Princestarring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent.

Estimated Top 10 North America July 10-12, 2009 Film (Dist)/Int’l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date:

1 (-) Bruno (MRC/Universal) UPI/SPRI/Mandate Int’l $30.4m -

2 (2) Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs (Fox) Fox Int’l $28.5m $120.6m

3 (1) Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (Paramount/DreamWorks) PPI $24.2m $339.2m

4 (3) Public Enemies (Universal/Relativity) UPI $14.1m $66.5m

5 (4) The Proposal (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $10.5m $113.8m

6 (5) The Hangover (Warner Bros/Legendary) WBPI $9.9m $222.4m

7 (-) I Love You, Beth Cooper (Fox) Fox Int’l $5m –

8 (6) Up (Buena Vista/Pixar) WDSMPI $4.7m $273.8m

9 (7) My Sister’s Keeper (Warner Bros) NLI $4.2m $35.8m

10 (8) The Taking Of Pelham 123 (Sony) SPRI $1.6m $61.5m