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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Borat Exceeds Expectations, $26M in First-Weekend Sales

HOLLYWOOD, California -- Americans turned out in force to see "Borat," the long-awaited mock documentary starring Sacha Baron Cohen as a boorish Kazakh journalist who offends everyone in sight while touring the United States seeking enlightenment and actress Pamela Anderson.

As the wacky Borat himself might say: Why not? They like!

The movie topped the weekend box office with record-breaking ticket sales of $26.4 million in the United States and Canada at only 837 theaters, according to estimates Sunday from studio 20th Century Fox.

"Borat" broke the box-office record for a movie opening at fewer than 1,000 locations. It bested Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," which debuted at $23.9 million in 2004.

"It was like a rock concert atmosphere -- pandemonium," said producer Jay Roach, who stood in the back Friday night at three sold-out shows in Hollywood and Los Angeles.

Walt Disney's "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," which many prerelease consumer surveys had indicated would finish first, came in No. 2 with an estimated gross of $20 million.

The huge haul for "Borat" was especially surprising given Fox's recent decision to scale back sharply the release in response to surveys showing limited awareness of the film.

The R-rated movie, whose full title is "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," averaged $31,511 per theater, the highest in the weekend's top 10.

Tracking surveys had pointed to an opening in the $15 million range. But they failed to capture the intensity of the "Borat" phenomenon stoked by enthusiastic screening audiences and a carefully scripted publicity campaign that started this spring, Roach said.