Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat movie has proved a surprise smash in the US, easily taking the number one spot on its debut despite opening in fewer than 900 cinemas.
The film featuring the spoof Kazakh journalist took $26.4 million on its opening weekend, defying industry insiders' predictions that it would not be popular enough with mainstream audiences.
Borat: Cultural Learning Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan played in just 837 theatres.
But The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, which came in second with takings of $20 million dollars, opened in 3,458 cinemas.
It had been expected to beat Borat.
Flushed Away, from Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman Animations and featuring the voices of Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman, finished in third place with an estimated 19.1 million dollars (#10 million), according to Exhibitor Relations.
Borat averaged a huge $31,511 per theatre it played in, while The Santa Clause 3, starring Tim Allen, managed just $5,784.
Studio 20th Century Fox plans to increase the number of cinemas showing Borat to as many as 2,500 on Friday.
The film has created a huge buzz in the US, which has been fascinated by Baron Cohen's rampantly sexist, racist and anti-Semitic creation.
It follows his adventures as he travels around America, meeting and mocking its citizens to report back to his home country.
``This picture was playing to full houses,'' 20th Century Fox head of distribution Bruce Snyder said.
``The planets aligned, the moons aligned, the stars aligned, and everything came together perfectly for us on this weekend.''