But movie-goers did not get Mike Myers' "The Love Guru," the weekend's other new wide release. The Paramount Pictures comedy about a self-help mentor took in just $14 million to open at No. 4.
In limited release, "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" opened strongly with $222,697 in five theaters, averaging $44,539 a cinema, compared with $10,012 in 3,911 theaters for "Get Smart."
"Kit Kittredge," released by Picturehouse and based on the popular line of American Girl dolls, stars Abigail Breslin as a 9-year-old aspiring newspaper reporter during the Depression. The film expands into wide release July 2.
The weekend's No. 2 spot was a photo finish between DreamWorks Animation and Paramount's "Kung Fu Panda" and Universal's "The Incredible Hulk."
In its third weekend, "Kung Fu Panda" pulled in $21.7 million, raising its domestic total to $155.6 million. "The Incredible Hulk" was right behind with $21.6 million in its second weekend to lift its total to $96.5 million.
"Panda" and "Hulk" were close enough that their rankings could change when final numbers are released Monday.
Hollywood's summer surge continued, with total revenues climbing for the fourth straight weekend compared to last year. The top 12 movies took in $136.9 million, up nearly 10 percent from the same weekend in 2007, when Carell's "Evan Almighty" opened at No. 1 with $31.2 million.
The industry is on track to beat the revenue record set last summer, when receipts topped $4 billion for the first time.
"While the country may be suffering with a so-called recession, people are finding movies a fairly inexpensive way to get their entertainment," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "This proves the conventional wisdom that, during tough economic times, the movies flourish."
In "Get Smart," Carell re-creates the bumbling Max Smart character created by Don Adams, with Hathaway playing the capable Agent 99 as the duo try to stop a plot to arm unstable governments with nuclear bombs. Dwayne Johnson co-stars as a superstar spy colleague.
Critics picked apart the movie for emphasizing action over the crisp verbal comedy of the TV show, but Warner Bros. figures that was a wise commercial move. While 60 percent of the audience was 25 or older, that still meant a sizable younger crowd that was more keen on the movie's action, said Dan Fellman, the studio's head of distribution.
"We were very pleased to have 40 percent under 25, because they did not grow up on the television show," Fellman said. "The filmmakers did a great job in making that happen. They broadened the audience and brought it into a modern-day bent."
Myers - who dreamed up the "Love Guru" character, co-wrote the script and was a producer on the movie - has been accustomed to blockbuster openings with the three "Shrek" flicks and his two "Austin Powers" spy sequels.
"Mike Myers, the master of the spy spoof, opens his movie against a spy comedy, and the spy movie genre was obviously a lot more appealing to audiences," Dergarabedian said.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and
Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures
will be released Monday.
1. "Get Smart," $39.2 million.
2. "Kung Fu Panda," $21.7 million.
3. "The Incredible Hulk," $21.6 million.
4. "The Love Guru," $14 million.
5. "The Happening," $10 million.
6. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," $8.4 million.
7. "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," $7.2 million.
8. "Sex and the City," $6.5 million.
9. "Iron Man," $4 million.
10. "The Strangers," $1.9 million.