It should come as no shock when a tortoise wins a race, but those mutant turtles continue to surprise.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the fifth critically ravaged installment of the kids' franchise, stunned Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, dethroning the superhero squadron after just one week at No. 1.
Turtles shelled the box office for $65 million, according to studio estimates from ticket sales firm Rentrak.
The debut shattered analysts' expectations, which hovered around $45 million.
But the half-shell heroes have made a career upending expectations and befuddling critics, who have hammered the series since it hit movie screens in 1990. Not that it has mattered: In nearly 25 years, no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film has opened below No. 1.
"Due to the level of brand identification constructed over the past quarter century, perhaps more people should have expected this sort of breakout debut," suggests David Mumpower, analyst for Box Office Prophets.
The debut also prompted distributor Paramount Pictures to announce a sequel, Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles 2, which will hit theaters June 3, 2016.
"As silly as the idea of pizza-obsessed reptilian warriors may be, the quartet is iconic, claiming a rare level of public awareness," Mumpower says.
Despite scoring a thumbs-up from just 20% of the nation's critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie earned a collective "B" from moviegoers, says pollsters CinemaScore. More importantly, the movie earned an A from children, says distributor Paramount Pictures.
Fond memories likely played a part in the film's success: The studio says that 55% of moviegoers were 25 or older, a surprisingly mature demographic. Not so surprisingly, 61% of the audience was male, Paramount says. 'The film obviously had greater-than-expected appeal to nostalgic parents," says Rentrak's Paul Dergarabedian.
That took a big chunk of the fanboy base from Guardians, which held up well in its second weekend but couldn't manage a repeat performance at No. 1. Guardians earned $41.5 million.
The disaster thriller Into the Storm took third place with $18.1 million, meeting most expectations.
The $22 million Helen Mirren food film The Hundred Foot Journey also met most of its modest expectations, taking fourth place with $11.1 million.
Scarlett Johansson's thriller Lucy rounded out the top five with $9.3 million. Final figures are due Monday.