NEW YORK — With Batman lurking, the prehistoric critters of "Ice Age: Continental Drift" ran off with the box office, earning $46 million in their opening weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The animated film from 20th Century Fox is the fourth in the "Ice Age" series and the first in 3-D. The North America performance of "Continental Drift" was on par with previous "Ice Age" movies but well below the opening weekend of the second installment, "The Meltdown," which opened with $68 million in 2006.
There has now been a decade of "Ice Age" films, allowing the characters voiced by Ray Romano, Queen Latifah and John Leguizamo to become increasingly familiar to audiences, particularly international ones. The film had already done robust overseas business ahead of opening in the U.S. This weekend it earned $95 million internationally, bringing its overseas total to $339 million.
"Scrat rules the world," said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for Fox, referring to the films' rat-squirrel mascot, whose wordless, futile pursuit of a nut is a mainstay of the movies.
The "Ice Age" franchise has now surpassed $2.2 billion worldwide, and the studio expects "Continental Drift" to equal the global total of the last installment, 2009's "Dawn of the Dinosaurs," which took in $886.7 million.
"There's really not very many animated franchises that have had three sequels," said Aronson. "The performance of 'Ice Age' has been remarkably consistent."
The weekend was inevitably shadowed by two superheroes, coming a week after the debut of Sony's Spider-Man reboot, "The Amazing Spider-Man," and one week before the highly-anticipated Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises."
In its second week of release, "Spider-Man" earned $35 million, pushing it past $200 million domestically. It earned nearly $67 million overseas over the weekend, bringing its worldwide gross to $521.4 million.