Moe, Larry and Curly earned $17.1 million in their big screen debut, not enough to beat powerhouse The Hunger Games but easily coming in ahead of horror pic Cabin in the Woods.
Lionsgate's Hunger Games grossed $21.5 million, becoming the first film since James Cameron's Avatar to stay at No. 1 for four consecutive weekends at the domestic box office and putting its total gross at $337.5 million. It has now earned $500 million globally, although its foreign run has been much softer.
Cabin in the Woods, also from Lionsgate, opened third at the domestic box office with $14.9 million.
Both Cabin and the Farrelly brothers' The Three Stooges turned in good performances, although it's too early to say whether Stooges will launch a new franchise for 20th Century Fox, which spent a modest $35 million to produce the slapstick comedy.
Stooges succeeded in pleasing its core audience. The film drew a B- CinemaScore overall, but a promising A from those under the age of 18. The film is playing especially well among boys, with those under 18 making up 30 percent of Friday's audience. Stooges is fueled by males of all ages, who made up 59 percent of the audience.
"The movie rocks with those that it was made for," Fox executive vice president of distribution Chris Aronson said. "There is a whole new generation of Stooge fans now."
Stooges, featuring Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso as Moe, Larry and Curly, also stars Jane Lynch and Larry David.
Cabin in the Woods was fully financed by MGM for $45 million before distribution rights were aquired by Lionsgate. The R-rated film earned a C CinemaScore, although Lionsgate said its own exit polls were noticeably stronger.
Males fueled Cabin in the Woods, making up 57 percent of the audinece, while 65 percent were over the age of 25. Interestingly, the movie saw a 3 percent jump from Friday to Saturday, unusual for a horror film and reflecting good word of mouth.
"We're very pleased with the outcome," said Lionsgate president of distribution Richie Fay, noting the film's strong reviews.
Cabin in the Woods was co-written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon and directed by Goddard, with Whedon producing. Rated R, the film stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth (who also stars in Whedon's upcoming The Avengers), Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams and Richard Jenkins.
The third new film of the weekend was EuropaCorp's sci-fi action pic Lockout, headlining Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace. The pic opened to roughly $6.3 million, puting it at No. 9.
Open Road Films is distributing Lockout for fellow indie distributor FilmDistrict. James Mather and Stephen St. Leger directed from a script they wrote with Europa's Luc Besson.
The biggest gross of the weekend will come overseas, where Universal and Hasbro's Battleship is rolling out five weeks ahead of its May 18 launch. The pic, earning $25 million in its first three days (in some territories, movies open midweek), is projected to gross $58 million through Sunday from 26 markets.
At $58 million, Battleship is pacing 75 percent ahead of John Carter's opening and 78 percent of Wrath of the Titans (both of those films will gross north of $200 million internationally).
Battleship, headlining Taylor Kitsch, is a powerhouse in Asia, posting an opening-day gross of $2.8 million in South Korea -- the best ever for an English-language nonsequel and the third-biggest of all time behind Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Shrek the Third.
In Europe, Battleship is doing solid business, grossing $3.7 million in the U.K., including previews. It posted an opening-day gross of $730,000 in Spain, the best showing of the year, and also nabbed the biggest opening day of the year in Germany ($900,000).
Universal and Hasbro, which spent north of $200 million to produce the tentpole, took the unprecedented step of going out so early internationally to give Battleship room before May tentpoles The Avengers and Men in Black 3 make their global assaults. Avengers opens May 4 domestically, but begins its foreign debut in two weeks.