"The Simpsons Movie" turned doughnuts into dollars over the weekend, raking in $71.9 million to debut as the top movie this week.
The big screen tale of the lovable, if dysfunctional, family rolled over the competition, sending last week's top movie, Universal Studio's "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," into second place with $19 million, a 44 percent drop.
"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," from Warner Bros., fell to third place with $17.1 million, a 48 percent drop from last week. The film has grossed $242 million domestically after three weeks in theaters.
"Homer's odyssey paid off," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
The film, which featured the antics of yellow-hued Homer, Marge, Lisa, Maggie and a host of motley characters, grossed an average of $18,320 on 3,922 screens across the country and also opened strongly in 70 foreign markets.
"We are ecstatic," said Chris Aronson, senior vice president for distribution at 20th Century Fox. "It far exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations."
The hand-drawn movie had the fifth best opening weekend of the year, beating such notable contenders as "Transformers," from Paramount, "Ghost Rider," from Sony Pictures and the computer-animated "Ratatouille," from Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.
"It's unprecedented to have the longest-running sitcom of all time still on the air and have it also be the number one movie in theaters," Dergarabedian said.
Dergarabedian praised the film's marketing campaign, which included dressing a number of 7-Eleven stores around the country as Kwik-E-Marts, the fictional convenience stores selling such Simpsons' favorites as Buzz Cola and Squishees.
The debut was good news for Fox, which also has done well this year with top-grossing films "Live Free or Die Hard" and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer."
The long-awaited film version of the Fox Television show played well across the country and with all age brackets, Fox said Sunday, giving the distributor hope that it will hold its own against next week's big opener, "The Bourne Ultimatum," from Universal.
The stellar debut of "The Simpsons" helped propel the summer box office take. This week's top-12 films grossed $168.6 million, up a whopping 45 percent from the top 12 last year, which included "Miami Vice" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."
The weekend's other debuts made the top 10, but lagged far behind "The Simpsons."
"No Reservations," the Warner Bros. romantic comedy starring Catherine Zeta-Jones as a gourmet chef, earned $11.8 million.
"I Know Who Killed Me," a Sony Pictures/Tri-Star thriller starring Lindsay Lohan, debuted in 9th place with a paltry $3.4 million.
"Who's Your Caddy," from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, grossed $2.9 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Simpsons," $71.8 million.
2. "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," $19.1 million.
3. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," $17.1 million.
4. "Hairspray," $15.6 million.
5. "No Reservations," $11.8 million.
6. "Transformers," $11.5 million.
7. "Ratatouille," $7.2 million.
8. "Live Free or Die Hard," $5.4 million.
9. "I Know Who Killed Me," $3.4 million.
10. "Who's Your Caddy," $2.9 million.
Universal Pictures is a unit of General Electric's NBC Universal Inc. (CNBC also is a division of NBC Universal.) New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. are units of Time Warner . Sony Pictures is a unit of Sony .