Despite so-so reviews, Disney/Pixar said its Cars proved irresistible at the box office and opened as the No. 1 movie Friday taking in $62.8 million from 3,985 theaters. But there was a controversy: I’m told one rival studio put Cars‘ cumulative tow at only $56.7 million. And it was the first time since the Disney-Pixar partnership began with 1995’s “Toy Story” that their film did not gross more than its predecessor over opening weekend. So is the ‘toon coupling slipping? Well, I can say that, for some time now, the buzz on Cars wasn’t very strong. The feeling was that much of the movie seemed way too retro, and that was reflected in the tepid reviews. Or maybe Pixar has built expectations so high based on its quality product that we complain when it doesn’t hit a home run every time out. Still, according to its own studio’s numbers, the ‘toon had an amazing per-screen-average of $15,759 so theaters showing it were packed.

Worldwide, Da Vinci Code set another benchmark and passed The Passion of the Christ‘s globally with $642 million compared to $623 million, making Sony’s religious thriller the No. 26 biggest all-time hit.  In this country, Universal’s The Break-Up fell 47% from last weekend’s big numbers, still earning a very respectable $20.5 million and total $74.1 mil domestically. And 20th Century Fox’s X-Men 3 rose from 4th position Friday to finish No. 3 for the weekend with $15.5 mil for the weekend and $201.7 million total domestically). 20th’s The Omen, which had such an amazing start this week earning $12.6 million from its gimmicky “6-6-06″ start (and claimed the highest Tuesday gross ever), settled down to 4th place with $15.4 million for the weekend and $35.7 mil total. Paramount/Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge placed 5th place, adding $10.3 mil for a total $130.2 mil U.S. haul, while Da Vinci Code mustered 6th with a slightly less $10.3 mil for $189.0 mil in this country. The only other film opening this weekend, Prairie Home Companion, earned $4.6 million in just 760 theaters, but its per screen average rose to a 3rd best $6,146. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth took in a staggering $3.9 mil from only 122 theaters.

The opening weekend for Cars was good but less than Disney/Pixar’s huge hits Nemo and The Incredibles which both did $70+ mil. Still, Disney/Pixar took in nearly twice the opening of Dreamworks /  Paramount’s Over the Hedge summer ‘toon offering. Overall, it shaped up as a big weekend at the box office. That’s either up 8% or 15% from last year (depending on whose numbers you believe)with six films doing over $10 mil apiece. As far as overseas b.o., all the studios expected deep slides because of the ongoing World Cup action. But Da Vinci added another $22 mil globall, making it the #1 movie for the fourth week in a row and putting its foreign take at over $453 million.

See: Da Vinci Code Passes Passion Worldwide