Disney Pixar’s Up shot to the top of the North American box office chart this weekend, opening with an estimated gross of $68.2m.

The 3D animated family adventure - with Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc) directing and Ed Asner heading the voice cast - achieved the best opening for a Pixar film since 2004’s The Incredibles, and the third best in Pixar’s ten-film history.

It opened better than the company’s three previous early summer releases — last year’s Wall-E, 2007’s Ratatouille and 2006’s Cars — and looks certain to continue the remarkable run of box office success that has seen all seven of Pixar’s features over the past decade topping $200m domestically.

After opening the Cannes Film Festival and earning glowing reviews, the film opened in 3,766 theatres (for a per-theatre average of $18,109), including a record 1,530 3D sites, a count which will have significantly boosted the weekend gross.

The opening allays concerns that Up, about an old man and young boy who are carried by balloons to an exotic land, might not play as well to children as previous Pixar offerings.

  • The weekend’s other new wide release, Mandate Pictures’ horror outing Drag Me To Hell, opened in third place with an estimated $16.6m, a lower tally than expected given the recent strength of horror films in the marketplace.

With Spider-Man’s Sam Raimi directing, Alison Lohman starring and Universal distributing, the PG-13 film got almost universally positive reviews but in a crowded marketplace played in only 2,508 theatres (for an average of $6,630).

  • Last weekend’s top film, Fox’s Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (known internationally as Night at the Museum 2), expanded slightly in its second weekend but saw its take drop 53% to an estimated $25.5m from 4,101 theatres (average - $6,218).

  • Warner’s Terminator Salvation fell off even more dramatically in its second weekend, dropping 62% to an estimated $16.1m (from 3,602 theatres, for a $4,481 average). Its total stands at $90.7m.

  • Paramount’s Dance Flick, which also opened last week, was down 54% to $4.9m (from 2,459 theatres, for a $1,993 average), for a $19.2m total so far.

  • Just outside the top ten, Summit’s The Brothers Bloom expanded into 148 theatres and took $652,000 (average - $4,405), for a domestic tally of $1.4m after three weekends.

  • In the specialised arena, Here Media and Regent Releasing’s Departures, the Japanese drama from director Yojiro Takita that won this year’s foreign language film Oscar, opened on nine screens in selected markets and grossed an estimated $72,701, for a per-screen average of $8,077.

Next weekend’s wide releases are: Warner’s R-rated comedy The Hangover, with Todd Phillips directing Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis; Universal’s adventure comedy Land of the Lost, with Will Ferrell starring for director Brad Silberling; and Fox Searchlight’s romance-themed comedy My Life in Ruins, starring Nia Vardalos, with Donald Petrie directing.

Estimated Top 10 North America May 29-31

Film (Dist)/Int’l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date

1 (-) Up (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $$68.2m -

2 (1) Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Fox) Fox Int’l $25.5m $105.3m

3 (-) Drag Me To Hell (Universal) Mandate $16.6m -

4 (2) Terminator Salvation (Warner Bros) SPRI $16.1m $90.7m

5 (3) Star Trek (Paramount) PPI $12.8m $209.5m

6 (4) Angels & Demons (Sony) SPRI $11.2m $104.8m

7 (5) Dance Flick (Paramount) PPI $4.9m $19.2m

8 (6) X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Fox) Fox Int’l $3.9m $170.9m

9 (7) Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past (Warner Bros) New Line Int’l $1.9m $50m

10 (8) Obsessed (Sony) SPRI $0.7m $67.5m