Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
Wreck-It Ralph did just that to the competition this weekend at theaters, coasting to an easy win at the box office.
The animated Disney film collected $49.1 million, according to studio estimates from industry trackers Hollywood.com.
While analysts expected a big debut for the video game comedy - projections hovered around $40 million - stellar reviews helped propel a strong weekend at theaters, which saw about a 15% uptick in business from last week.
Ralph scored big with critics and fans. About 84% of reviewers gave it a thumbs-up, while 93% of moviegoers liked it, says survey site Rottentomatoes.com.
Ralph "unofficially opens the holiday movie season, and this is a fine start for the first of the many heavy-hitters to open over the remainder of the year," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com.
The story, which features decades-old video games, capitalized on "the nostalgia factor," Briody says.
"Audiences are having no problem handing over their quarters," he says. The film could have long legs at turnstiles as "gamers from the '80s and '90s who now have families bring out their kids to theaters."
Adults not entertaining children turned to the Denzel Washington thriller Flight, which was second with $25 million. That film, too, eclipsed expectations, as analysts projected a debut of about $20 million.
"Flight is reaching the older audiences who unfortunately scoff at stuff like Wreck-It Ralph," Briody says. He says Washington "continues to be one of the most reliable draws in Hollywood."
Argo, the Iran hostage drama directed by Ben Affleck, took third place with $10.2 million. The $45 million film has done $75.9 million since its release Oct. 11 and has yet to drop from the top three.
The only other major newcomer, RZA's directorial debut The Man With the Iron Fists, did a respectable $8.2 million, good for fourth place and meeting most analysts' expectations.
The Liam Neeson thriller Taken 2 rounded out the top five with $6 million, bringing its four-week gross to $125.7 million.
Final figures are expected later today.