Box Office: 'Anchorman 2' Tops Wednesday With Pleasing $8.1 Million

UPDATED: The sequel also is off to a strong start in the U.K., where it opened to $1.6 million on Wednesday; critical and awards darling "Her" debuts in six theaters.

Paramount's Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues topped the Wednesday box office with $8.1 million, putting the Will Ferrell comedy on course to open in the $40 million to $45 million range.

So far, the sequel -- earning a B CinemaScore -- is pacing slightly ahead of Little Fockers, which debuted to $7.1 million on Dec. 22, 2010, likewise a Wednesday. Ditto for the U.K., where Anchorman 2 opened to a stellar $1.6 million on Wednesday, compared to $1.5 million for Little Fockers, which ultimately grossed $160 million internationally.

PHOTOS: 'Anchorman 2' Promotional Blitz

Paramount decided to open Anchorman 2 midweek in order to get a jump on the Christmas crush.

Anchorman 2, opening nine years after Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy debuted to $28.4 million in July 2004, cost $50 million to produce.

Paramount curated an exhaustive marketing campaign for the sequel, both in the U.S. and overseas, where the first film earned a paltry $5.3 million.

PHOTOS: 'Anchorman 2' Premiere

The sequel, which sees the return of Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Christina Applegate while adding newcomers James Marsden, Harrison Ford and Kristen Wiig, follows the news team as they make the transition from San Diego to New York. Adam McKay returns to direct from a script he co-wrote with Ferrell.

Critical darling Her, directed by Spike Jonze and starring Joaquin Phoenix, also debuted Wednesday, although only in six theaters in New York and Los Angeles. From Warner Bros., the film took in $60,000.