Holding stronger than expected, “The Dark Knight Rises” earned $36.4 million at the weekend domestic B.O., outmuscling “Total Recall” and its ho-hum $26 million — meaning Sony has even more reason to pin its hopes for the remake on overseas playability.

With the Olympics competing for auds’ attention, the weekend’s Stateside totals were down more than 27% from last year, when “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” debuted with $54 million.

Sony execs are optimistic over the international bow of “Total Recall” in just 12 smaller Asian markets, grossing $6.2 million. In the larger territories including Taiwan (where it earned $1.3 million), the pic scored 14% better than th e 2010’s actioner “Salt,” which was a winner for the studio.

“This is definitely going to be a world play,” said Sony worldwide distribution prexy Rory Bruer. The studio expands “Total Recall,” which it said cost $125 million, internationally throughout August, starting next weekend in Japan, Mexico and Russia.

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Domestically, WB’s Batman finale affected the newcomer by appealing to a similar demographic: “Recall” skewed 58% male, with 53% of its opening aud over 30.

Fox’s family offering “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” also debuted modestly, with $14.7 million. But with a small budget of $22 million, the pic should see a decent multiple, based on past pics.

At the specialty B.O., Sony Pictures Classics’ “Celeste and Jesse Forever” averaged a solid $28,003 from four debut locations.

Focus Features’ “Moonrise Kingdom” stayed strong in its 11th weekend ($1.2 million), down just 14%. Pic has cumed $40.8 million domestically — second only to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” ($45 million) as 2012’s highest-grossing Stateside specialty pic.

“Dark Knight Rises” fell just 41% in its third frame, bringing its Stateside cume to $354.6 million and its worldwide tally to $733 million. Still, it held better than either last year’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” which fell 54% during its third frame, or 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” down 43%.

It’s typical for blockbusters to level out in subsequent frames, though the Batman finale has played particularly well during midweeks and fell just 60% last weekend from its $160.9 million debut.

As the year’s third-highest domestic release overall, behind “The Avengers” ($617 million) and “The Hunger Games” ($407 million), “Dark Knight Rises” continues to display considerable stamina. While “TDKR” is doing well midweeks, it still trails the middle installment: It earned $31.1 million last week, compared to the $37.3 million during its second week for “The Dark Knight” in 2008.

Overseas, popularity for Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is gaining ground, with the finale now outpacing “Dark Knight” by 49% (using current exchange rates).

Total for “Rises” in the U.K. ($63.9 million) is well above the second-highest grossing market, South Korea ($35.8 million). Australia has collected $33.7 million, and Germany, Mexico and France have contributed just north of $20 million each.

To turn a profit, “Total Recall” will need to rely on overseas auds liking the redo. Early word suggests this might be possible: Tracking for the Colin Farrell starrer is strongest throughout Latin America and Europe, according to Sony.

Domestic playability is far less optimistic. “Recall” received a poor C+ CinemaScore rating and word-of-mouth needs to be top-notch for the film to compete with Universal’s “The Bourne Legacy,” which will open this weekend.

Fox’s “Dog Days” is better positioned to play through summer, with a possible 3.5 times Stateside multiple — comparable to WB’s “Cats and Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore,” which bowed at around this time in 2010. If that happens, “Dog Days,” which received an A- rating, will outgross its two predecessors domestically, even though it bowed with nearly $10 million less than either film. Focus Features’ stop-motion toon “ParaNorman” will provide considerable family competish when it bows Aug. 17.

“This is what summer is all about,” said Fox distribution topper Chris Aronson, referring to the pic’s potential playability. He added, “I never expected ‘Dog Days’ to open like the films before it because March weekends (where the others bowed) are more concentrated.”

“Dog Days” bowed day-and-date in five overseas markets; Blighty was by far the biggest contributor with nearly $2.7 million.

And starting to match its cuddly $203 million Stateside run, Universal’s R-rated comedy “Ted” estimated a hearty $32 million overseas, thanks to openings in major markets including the U.K. ($14.3 million) and Germany ($7.4 million). Pic’s Blighty debut is U’s third-highest ever, behind “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” and “King Kong.”

“Ted” will expand into 38 additional markets throughout the next few months, including Spain next weekend.