LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Puss in Boots" snatched the domestic box office title from a band of working-class thieves in the new Eddie Murphy action-comedy "Tower Heist," studio estimates released on Sunday showed.
"Puss in Boots," an animated spinoff from the blockbuster "Shrek" movies, nabbed an estimated $48 million in global ticket sales during its second weekend in theaters.
That included an unexpectedly strong $33 million from U.S. and Canadian theaters, putting the 3D family film in first place domestically for the second week in a row.
This week's win came as a surprise as industry watchers had forecast "Tower Heist" would steal the show. Domestic sales for "Puss" dropped just 3 percent from last week, far less than the typical decline of at least 40 percent after a debut weekend.
"This is unexpectedly great news. I really think it's driven by strong word of mouth and critic and fan momentum," said Anne Globe, chief marketing officer for DreamWorks Animation, which produced the film.
The studio made a big push to bring in families this weekend after competing a week ago with Halloween, baseball's World Series and a snowstorm in the U.S. Northeast. Investors were disappointed with the $34 million domestic take for "Puss" last weekend, sending DreamWorks Animation shares down nearly 8 percent on Monday.
Over the first two weekends, "Puss" has $114.5 million in total worldwide sales.
"Tower Heist" was in second place for the weekend with $25.1 million in North American sales, at the low end of studio projections.
Nikki Rocco, president of distribution for Universal Pictures, noted a "general malaise" at the box office with slow overall sales for several weekends. But she said "Heist" had strong reviews in studio exit polls and drew an older crowd with 62 percent of the audience over 30.
"Twenty-five million for a movie that appeals to an older audience is a good result," Rocco said.
The film tells the story of Manhattan high-rise employees, led by comic heavyweights Murphy and Ben Stiller, who plan a robbery to regain their losses from a Wall Street swindler.
Financed with Relativity Media at a cost of about $85 million, the movie added $9.5 million from overseas markets for a combined weekend total of $34.6 million.
In third place, pot-smoking duo Harold & Kumar underachieved with their holiday misadventures. "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" took in $13.1 million domestically, short of studio expectations of at least $15 million for the third film in the low-budget series.
Still, the movie should easily turn a profit as production cost just $19 million and "Harold & Kumar" films typically perform well on home video, said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros.
"We'll be in the black," Goldstein said.
Overall, the weekend continued a slow streak for moviegoing this fall. Ticket sales for the top 12 films were 26 percent below the same weekend a year ago, according to Hollywood.com Box Office.
In fourth place, low-budget horror sequel "Paranormal Activity 3" earned $8.5 million in domestic sales.
Fifth spot for the weekend belonged to science fiction thriller "In Time" starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. It had $7.7 million in sales at domestic theaters during its second weekend of release.
Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp, released "Tower Heist." Time Warner unit Warner Bros. distributed "Harold & Kumar," which was produced by New Line Cinema. "Puss in Boots" was produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.
Paramount also released "Paranormal Activity 3." "In Time" was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine