After a slow two weeks for new movies, fresh wide releases dominated the top five at the box office.
Sony's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" premiered in first place with $35.4 million, in the range of analyst predictions of $32 million to $39 million, according to figures from measurement firm Comscore.
"I'm extremely pleased with our opening," said Adrian Smith, the studio's president of domestic distribution. "It's a record animated opening of all time for December and I could not be more pleased."
The film follows the origin story of new Spider-Man Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino Brooklynite who assumes the mantle after Peter Parker is killed in battle.
The film earned rave reviews with audiences and critics, garnering an A+ CinemaScore rating and a 97% "fresh" score on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. It even received a pre-release Golden Globe nomination for best animated picture.
"The response from audiences and critics have been through the roof," said Smith. "The CinemaScore is higher than all of the previous Spider-Man films. We've had great response and with all of the awards nominations we've received, it really speaks to how much people are liking it."
In second place, Warner Bros.' "The Mule" opened with $17.2 million, in range of analyst predictions of $12 million to $20 million.
Directed by Clint Eastwood (who also stars), the film follows a geriatric drug mule working for a Mexican cartel. It earned an A- rating on CinemaScore and a 63% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Universal's "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch" came in at No. 3, adding $11.6 million in its sixth weekend for a cumulative $239.3 million.
At No. 4, Disney's "Ralph Breaks the Internet" added $9.6 million in its fourth week for a cumulative $154.5 million.
Rounding out the top five, Universal's "Mortal Engines" debuted with $7.5 million, a disappointing result for the $100-million film. Analysts projected a weak $10-million to $15-million opening.
An adaptation of a young adult novel of the same name, "Mortal Engines" earned mixed reviews with audiences and critics with a B- CinemaScore and a 28% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The studio also expanded "Green Book" into 34 additional theaters (for a total of 1,215), earning $2.7 million over the weekend and a cumulative $24.6 million.
This week’s crop of newcomers still pales in comparison with last year's flock. This week last year saw the debut of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which opened with $220 million domestically, the second-best opening of all time and the third-best overall weekend at the box office of all time.
Fox's "Once Upon a Deadpool" opened Wednesday in 1,566 locations with $2.6 million. A PG-13 version of "Deadpool 2," the film brings the sequel's North American cumulative total to $322.3 million.
In limited release, Annapurna Pictures' "If Beale Street Could Talk" opened in four locations with $219,173 for a per-screen average of $54,793.
Sony Classics opened “Capernaum" with $27,588 on three screens, a per-screen average of $9,196.
Fox Searchlight expanded "The Favourite" into 348 additional locations in its fourth weekend (for a total of 439), earning $2.6 million, a per-screen average of $5,854, and a cumulative $6.7 million.
Focus Features' "Mary Queen of Scots" added 62 locations in its second weekend (a total of 66), earning $700,000, a per-screen average of $10,607, and a cumulative $963,000.
Neon's "Vox Lux" added 319 locations in its second weekend (a total of 325), earning $244,000, a per-screen average of $751 and a cumulative $433,211.
Roadside Attractions' "Ben Is Back" added 25 locations in its second weekend (a total of 29), earning $145,543, a per-screen average of $5,018 and a cumulative $246,867.