Warner Bros' animated feature Happy Feet pipped Sony's James Bond epic CasinoRoyale to the post as the two top films ofthe weekend unusually grossed more than $40m each.
Happy Feet, a storyabout a tap-dancing penguin featuring the vocal talents of Hugh Jackman NicoleKidman and Robin Williams, opened on an estimated $42.3m from 3,804 screens.
Approximately $2.4m of that amount came from IMAX screens,which can take the credit for elevating the film's tally beyond 007's reach.
This was the biggest opening haul yet for IMAX's share of ananimated release, and the third biggest for an IMAX film.
Just as Happy Feetimpressed the critics, so did Casino Royale and particularly the new face of Bond, Daniel Craig.Audiences responded strongly to Martin Campbell's origins story and the $40.6mdebut from 3,434 screens was matched by a superb $42.2m international launchthat featured only two major markets.
Casino Royaleproduced the second biggest opening in franchise history behind DieAnother Day which took $47.1m in November2002.
Overall the top 12 films combined for a sturdy $133.6m,although it wasn't enough to beat the $171.9m tally of a year ago powered bythat astonishing $102.3m launch of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.
Fox's Borat ischarging towards $100m and slipped to third place in its third weekend on$14.4m for $90.5m. Also in its third weekend was Buena Vista's TheSanta Clause 3, which fell two to fourth on$8.2m for $51.6m after the same amount of time.
The Queen, whichMiramax is releasing in North America, climbed into the top 10 in its eighthweekend and added $2.3m for $17.3m.
Of the new limited releases, MGM/The Weinstein Company'sensemble drama Bobby opened well on twoscreens for $67,000, while Warner Independent Pictures' comedy ForYour Consideration launched on $394,000from 23.
Fox Searchlight's Fast Food Nation opened on a lacklustre $390,000, and alsounderperforming was Universal's new comedy Let's Go To Prison which opened in 11th place on $2.1m from 1,495screens.
Next weekend's wide releases are: Buena Vista's thriller Deja-Vu starring Denzel Washington; Fox's comedy DeckThe Halls starring Danny DeVito and MatthewBroderick; New Line's comedy Tenacious D And The Pick Of Destiny starring Jack Black; and Darren Aronofsky's sci-fiepic The Fountain, which WarnerBros is releasing in North American and stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.
Estimated Top Ten North America Nov 17-19, 2006
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimatedtotal to date
1 (-) Happy Feet (Warner Bros)WBPI/Village Roadshow$42.3m -
2 (-) Casino Royale (Sony/MGM)SPRI $40.6m --
3 (1) Borat (Fox) Fox Int'l$14.4m $90.5m
4 (2) The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (Buena Vista) BVI $8.2m $51.6m
5 (3) Flushed Away (Paramount)UIP $6.8m $48.8m
6 (4) Stranger Than Fiction(Sony) Mandate/SPRI $6.6m $22.9m
7 (6) Babel (Paramount Vantage)Summit $2.9m $12m
8 (5) Saw III (Lionsgate)Lionsgate $2.8m $74.9m
9 (7) The Departed (Warner Bros)WBPI/Initial $2.6m $113.9m
10 (12) The Queen (Miramax) Pathe$2.3m $17.3m