Box Office Weekend: Ferrell Intercepts Inception

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Macall Polay

Will Ferrell, left, and Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys

After fighting off superspy Angelina Jolie and superschmuck Steve Carell, Leonardo DiCaprio and his team of sleep snoopers finally got knocked off by some other guys. Make that the other guys. Will Ferrell, the good dude, and Mark Wahlberg, the action guy, teamed up for an O.K. buddy-cop comedy that wrested Inception from its perch as king of the North American box office after three weeks at No. 1.

According to early studio estimates, The Other Guys will have earned $34.6 million in its first three days. That's a career second best for Ferrell. And while the tally is considerably below that of the $47 million opening his race-car comedy Talladega Nights earned in 2006, it's more than Ferrell's basketball movie Semi-Pro took in over its entire theatrical run and a big step up from the $18.8 million opening of last year's ultra-expensive Land of the Lost, which limped to a $49.4 million total. With the star jettisoning his Wild Will persona for the drolly demure role of a "forensic accountant," The Other Guys proved that Ferrell could play less manic and still entice the young-male demographic.

Christopher Nolan need not cry in his beer over Inception's demotion to the No. 2 spot. The writer-director can still sip champagne as he sees his movie soar to $277.7 million in its first 24 days in domestic theaters, plus another quarter-billion dollars abroad. That's good news for Warner Bros. and other investors who ponied up the film's $160 million budget and for creative types who want to dream big and smart in the fantasy-action genre. Calling Robert Zemeckis, David Lynch and the Wachowskis: Get your most ambitious projects green-lit now, before the Inception glow fades.

The dance-athon threequel Step Up 3D, the other new film in wide release, cadged a club-footed $15.5 this weekend, the lowest gross for any of the Step Up films, despite playing in 3-D theaters with a hefty ticket surcharge. Jolie's Salt held well, finishing in fourth place, just ahead of Carell's Dinner for Schmucks, which dropped 55% from its opening weekend in the face of competition from Ferrell, another popular farceur. Despicable Me, riding on critical acclaim and the propensity for kids to keep coming back to their favorite animated features, passed the $200 million domestic mark on a pinchpenny $69 million budget. It has yet to play in most foreign markets.

Indie-wise, The Kids Are All Right expanded to 994 screens, from 847 last week, but saw a 26% drop in its weekend gross. With a $2.6 million take, the post-nuclear-family comedy is now at about $14 million. No Little Miss Sunshine, this. Winter's Bone, an indie drama with more modest aspirations, is playing in 141 theaters; its $290,750 weekend take brings its total earnings to nearly $4.5 million.

Next weekend in The Expendables, a half-dozen overage alpha males, including Sly Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li, will face off against archetypal beta male Michael Cera in the comix-romance-video-game farrago Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; and these two guy-oriented action films will try to keep Julia Roberts from reasserting her feminine domination of the box office in Eat Pray Love.

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend's top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. The Other Guys, $35.6 million, first weekend

2. Inception, $8.6 million; $227.7 million, fourth week

3. Step Up 3D, $15.5 million, first weekend

4. Salt, $11.1 million; $92 million, third week

5. Dinner for Schmucks, $10.5 million; $46.7 million, second week

6. Despicable Me, $9.4 million; $209.4 million, fifth week

7. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, $6.9 million; $26.4 million, second week

8. Charlie St. Cloud, $4.7 million; $23.5 million, second week

9. Toy Story 3, $3 million; $396.3 million, eighth week

10. The Kids Are All Right, $2.6 million; $14 million, fourth week