G.I. Joe: Retaliation stormed the box office this weekend, capturing the top spot and propelling a solid Easter weekend at theaters.
The toy-inspired sequel collected $41.2 million, according to studio estimates from the box-office tracking firm Hollywood.com.
The debut met most analysts' expectations and comes a week after the animated The Croods topped the box office with a strong debut as studios begin thawing their action and kid-friendly films for summer.
Retaliation, starring Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum, didn't enlist many critics for its cause. Only 29% recommended the movie, according to pollsters Rottentomatoes.com. About 64% of fans, though, gave the movie a thumbs-up.
Retaliation flourished despite this year being a tough one for shoot-'em-ups. Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head and Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand opened to harsh reviews and an indifferent public.
"This year is proving that most of the known franchises are mostly succeeding, while the new action entries are not," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com.
Retaliation producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says the film owes much of its success to a star (Johnson) flexing his muscles, on screen and at turnstiles.
"There's nothing wrong with box-office muscle," di Bonaventura says. "I believe in movie stars, that's for sure. And he certainly is one. He's this amazing specimen, yet people feel he's totally approachable and really funny. I think that's the thing that makes him so popular."
The Croods took second place for the weekend with $26.5 million.
Another success story:Tyler Perry's Temptation, which earned $22.3 million for third place. The comedy eclipsed projections, which hovered around $15 million.
The political thriller Olympus Has Fallen was fourth with $14 million, followed by Oz the Great and Powerful with $11.6 million.
The only other major newcomer, the thriller The Host, fell below expectations with $11 million. Forecasters had projected at least $15 million.
Final figures are expected Monday.
Ticket sales are down 12% from the same period last year, and attendance has dropped 13%, according to Hollywood.com.
Contributing: Bryan Alexander