By John Young
Updated October 09, 2011 at 06:42 PM EDT

Real Steel showed what it was made of, as the robot-boxing action drama won the weekend with an estimated $27.3 million. That’s the strongest opening ever for a boxing-themed picture, beating Rocky IV‘s $20 million debut in 1985 (when not adjusting for inflation).

DreamWorks’ $110 million film, which was released by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, scored a superb “A” rating from CinemaScore graders. That bodes well for the movie’s box-office stamina, especially since there are no other major family films hitting theaters until Puss in Boots pounces on Oct. 28.

Unsurprisingly for a movie about mechanical fighters beating up one another, Real Steel skewed male — 66 percent of the audience according to Disney. It also attracted a younger crowd, with 44 percent under the age of 25. The PG-13 movie’s respectable opening must also come as a relief to star Hugh Jackman, who hasn’t had a non-X-Men film open to more than $20 million since 2004’s Van Helsing.

In second with $10.4 million was the political thriller The Ides of March. The R-rated film — which George Clooney directed, co-wrote, and co-stars in along with Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei — particularly appealed to older women. According to Sony, 58 percent of the audience was female and 60 percent was over the age of 35. The $12.5 million movie earned a “B” grade from CinemaScore participants, which is a bit lower than expected considering its awards buzz and positive reviews. The Ides of March will need to hold up well the next few weeks if it wants to keep its Oscar hopes alive.

The rest of the top five consisted of prior releases that all dropped around (a very commendable) 35 percent from last week. In third place, the family film Dolphin Tale slipped 34 percent for $9.2 million, pushing the film’s cumulative tally to $49.1 million. The Brad Pitt baseball drama Moneyball, a critical darling, grossed $7.5 million for a 38 percent decline. And the well-reviewed cancer comedy 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, fell 36 percent for $5.5 million.

In limited release, the why-does-this-movie-exist horror sequel The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence stitched together a decent $54,000 from 18 theaters, with most locations only offering late-night showings.

1. Real Steel — $27.3 mil

2. The Ides of March — $10.4 mil

3. Dolphin Tale — $9.2 mil

4. Moneyball — $7.5 mil

5. 50/50 — $5.5 mil