‘Batman Begins’ At #1, Reviving Dark Knight Franchise

Film that delves into the Dark Knight's origins earned over $46.9 million.

The flailing Batman franchise redeemed itself this weekend, as the acclaimed “Batman Begins” ran over box-office competition — and relegated the 1997 clunker “Batman & Robin” to moviegoers’ distant memories.

Co-starring the newly engaged Katie Holmes as the Dark Knight’s childhood friend, the film that delves into Batman’s origins bowed at #1 on the box-office top 10 with more than $46.9 million, according to early estimates. In “Batman Begins,” Christian Bale stars as Bruce Wayne, the young man who witnesses the murder of his parents and vows to spend his life avenging their deaths. After traveling the world to learn how to fight evil, Wayne returns to his hometown of Gotham City — now infested with crime — and begins his quest to punish criminal forces (see “Bale Says Splitting Headache Helped Him Give Batman Dark Edge” ).

Not even a superhero of this caliber, though, could save the film industry from its worst slump in 20 years. This marked the 17th consecutive weekend in which the total box-office take was less than that of the corresponding weekend last year.

With the Dark Knight capturing the #1 spot, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” was relegated to the #2 position. The film, which stars the purportedly dating duo as a married couple of assassins whose careers are hidden from one another until they are each assigned to kill their spouse, earned $27.3 million in its second week in theaters (see “Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Discuss Long-Harbored Fantasies” ).

Maybe it has something to do with animal instincts. “Madagascar,” the animated family film about a group of best friends who escape the Central Park Zoo to find a comrade who has mysteriously gone missing, held onto a spot in the top three for the fourth week in a row, with $11.1 million. Featuring the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett Smith, the feature slipped one spot from #2 to #3 this week.

“Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” meanwhile, similarly managed to keep the competition at bay, dropping just one spot from #3 to #4 in its fifth week in theaters. The last installment in the “Star Wars” prequel series — revealing, most importantly, how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader — earned $9.7 million.

If you caught Chris Rock and Adam Sandler presenting at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards (see “Backstage At The Movie Awards: Sandler, Rock, Cruise, Holmes” ), you know why the comedic chemistry between the two actors is helping their film, “The Longest Yard,” hold onto a spot in the top half of the box-office top 10. This week, the football/prison movie drops from #4 to #5 with $8 million.

The family-friendly 3-D flick “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl in 3-D,” fell from the #5 spot — where it debuted last week — to the #6 spot, earning more than $6.6 million.

Rounding out this week’s top 10 are the Hilary Duff/ Heather Locklear romantic comedy the “The Perfect Man” (see “Duff & Locklear: Manhunters”), which bows at #7 with more than $5.4 million; “Cinderella Man,” which continues its descent, falling from #6 to #8 with more than $5.2 million; “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” which drops from #7 to #9 with more than $3.1 million; and “The Honeymooners,” which falls from #8 — where it debuted last week — to #10 with more than $2.5 million.

Next week, look for “Herbie: Fully Loaded” and “Bewitched” to debut on the box-office top 10. Also out next week is the thriller “Land of the Dead,” starring John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper and Asia Argento.

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