LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Leonardo DiCaprio's dreams thriller "Inception" ruled the North American box office for a third weekend on Sunday, and also overtook "Toy Story 3" to claim top honors internationally.
"Inception" fended off three middling newcomers, led by the Steve Carell comedy "Dinner for Schmucks," to sell $27.5 million worth of tickets across the United States and Canada during the three days beginning on Friday.
Its domestic total rose to $193.3 million, said its distributor Warner Bros., which remained confident that it would finish up around the $300 million mark.
Internationally, "Inception" pulled in $53.7 million from 51 markets, taking its foreign total to $170 million. It opened at No. 1 in Germany ($7.1 million), and retained its crown in France and Australia.
"Dinner for Schmucks" opened to $23.3 million in North America, in line with expectations but down from the $25 million start for Carell's previous live-action movie "Date Night" in April.
The opening was "solid," said Don Harris, executive VP for distribution at Viacom Inc-owned distributor Paramount Pictures, which partnered on the $63 million project with closely held producers DreamWorks and Spyglass Entertainment.
"Schmucks," which garnered mixed reviews, stars Carell as a buffoon invited to a party for oddballs hosted by wealthy businessmen who lampoon their idiocy. Paul Rudd co-stars, and Jay Roach of "Austin Powers" fame directs.
The film was marketed at men but women liked it better, Harris said. He hoped the film would follow a similar trajectory as the Adam Sandler hit "Grown Ups," which has earned $150.7 million to date.
"CATS & DOGS" ROADKILL
Honors for the biggest bomb went to the costly Warner Bros. 3D family sequel "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," which opened at No. 5 with just $12.5 million. The Time Warner Inc unit had hoped it would earn more than $20 million.
"We probably failed to create the same level of interest that we had in the original," said Dan Fellman, the studio's president of domestic distribution.
The 2001 original, "Cats & Dogs," opened to $22 million in 2001. The sequel had the benefit of premium pricing for 3D engagements as well as higher ticket prices overall.
The project, carrying a reported $85 million budget, was a joint-venture with Australian media firm Village Roadshow Ltd.
Also new was Universal Pictures' Zac Efron psychological melodrama "Charlie St. Cloud," which opened at No. 6 with $12.1 million, at the lower end of expectations. The "High School Musical" heartthrob was last in theaters with "17 Again," which opened to $23 million in April 2009.
The film, which cost a relatively cheap $44 million to make, played almost exclusively to Efron's core audience of young women. The General Electric Co unit said it expected strong midweek grosses. Efron's bereaved title character sees his dead younger brother.
Columbia Pictures' Angelina Jolie thriller "Salt," which opened at No. 2 last weekend, slipped one place with $19.3 million, taking its total to $70.8 million.
The film is tracking far behind her previous action films "Wanted" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," but the Sony Corp unit expects to make most of its money internationally. Its early foreign total rose to $32.8 million, bolstered by No. 1 openings this past weekend in South Korea ($6.5 million) and Russia ($5.5 million).
Universal's hit cartoon "Despicable Me," also featuring Carell, was off one to No. 4 with $15.4 million; its total rose to $190.3 million after four weekends. The early foreign total stands at $29.2 million.
Internationally, Walt Disney Co's "Toy Story 3" slipped to No. 2 with $39.1 million from 48 countries, for a total of $434.6 million. The Pixar cartoon led Britain for a second weekend, and Japan for a fourth, tallying about $61 million in each market. In North America, it fell two places to No. 7, with earnings to date of $390 million.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Xavier Briand