LOS ANGELES -- Disney has put a rodent on top of the box office, though not the studio's venerable mascot, Mickey Mouse.
"Ratatouille," an animated comedy about a gourmet rat that gets a chance to cook in a French restaurant, debuted as the No. 1 weekend movie with $47.2 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
20th Century Fox's action thriller "Live Free or Die Hard," Bruce Willis's return as unstoppable cop John McClane, opened in second-place with $33.15 million. Since opening Wednesday, the movie has grossed $48.2 million.
In narrower release, Michael Moore's health care documentary "Sicko," released by the Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate, took in $4.5 million in its nationwide debut to finish at No. 9. The movie opened in one New York City theater a week earlier.
Focus Features' family drama "Evening," with an all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Glenn Close and Claire Danes, opened at No. 10 with $3.5 million.
While "Ratatouille" easily dominated the weekend, it had the smallest debut among releases by Disney's Pixar Animation unit since 1998's "A Bug's Life," which opened with $33.3 million. The other five Pixar films since then, among them "Toy Story 2," "Finding Nemo" and last year's "Cars," had opening weekends between $57.4 million and $70.5 million.
Chuck Viane, Disney's head of distribution, said "Ratatouille" was up against more competition than past Pixar flicks. With sparkling reviews for "Ratatouille," Disney is counting on the staying power at theaters that other Pixar films have had.
"Our whole idea was to set ourselves up for what we call the 10-day opening," Viane said of the upcoming Fourth of July week. "We look at this as one extended playtime. We're in this for the long haul. We're glad we're No. 1, but we're not trying to make this just a weekend wonder."