The animated film 'Ice Age' has taken $47.9 million in its opening weekend in the US, making it the most popular March opening ever.

Video game adaptation 'Resident Evil' took second place with $18.2 million, while Robert De Niro/Eddie Murphy comedy 'Showtime' opened at number 3 with $15.4 million.

High attendances for 'Ice Age' took overall box office takings to levels normally seen only during busy summer or holiday seasons, with the top 12 movies grossing $124.2 million, up 71% from the same weekend last year.

'Ice Age' is now the third highest debuting animated film ever, behind 'Monsters, Inc.' at $62.6 million and 'Toy Story 2' at $57.4 million.

In 2001, 'Shrek' grossed $42.4 million in its opening weekend; it went on to gross $267.7 million, making it the number two all-time animated film behind 'The Lion King'.

'Ice Age' is due for release in Ireland this Friday, 22 March.

Watch the 'Ice Age' trailer here.