'War Of The Worlds' Invades Box Office, Captures #1

Steven Spielberg film earned $77.6 million over the holiday weekend.

Americans celebrated their country's independence this July 4 weekend by watching Earthlings and aliens duke it out for control of the world in the summer blockbuster "War of the Worlds."

The Steven Spielberg-helmed film easily took control of the box office this long weekend, earning $77.6 million, according to early estimates, to debut at #1. The retelling of the classic H.G. Wells novel scored the second-best four-day opening over a July 4 weekend since 2004's "Spider-Man 2" which earned $115.8 million, according to The Associated Press.

In "War of the Worlds," we watch as one family struggles to survive the massive alien invasion of Earth. Tom Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, a formerly self-involved father who has to fight to save his children (including Rachel, played by Dakota Fanning) from the tripod-shaped aliens hell-bent on destroying the planet (see " 'War Of The Worlds' Has History Of Freaking Earthlings Out").

The film itself tore the Dark Knight down from his throne atop the box office. "Batman Begins," which held the #1 spot for two weeks, was relegated to the #2 position with more than $18.6 million. With Christian Bale starring as Batman (see "Bale Says Splitting Headache Helped Him Give Batman Dark Edge"), the film explores the origins of the hero's story, from witnessing the murder of his parents to his vow to become a force of good in Gotham City.

Two significantly more selfish characters held onto the #3 spot once again this week. "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a married couple of assassins charged with the task of killing each other (see "Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Discuss Long-Harbored Fantasies"), pulled in $12.7 million its fourth week in theaters.

All the nose-twitching and magic broomstick-wielding in the world, meanwhile, couldn't help "Bewitched" hang on to the #2 spot. Starring Will Ferrell as an actor cast to play the lead role of Darrin in a film version of the classic TV series and Nicole Kidman as the real-life witch set to play his wife (see " 'Bewitched' Nicole Kidman Nose What To Do With Witchcraft"), the feature fell to the #4 spot, pulling in $10.8 million.

"Herbie: Fully Loaded" fell one notch from the #4 spot where it debuted last week. The Disney movie about a car with a need for speed and its driver, the daughter of a NASCAR star (see "Lindsay Lohan Advises Herself To Say 'No' More"), took the #5 spot and earned more than $10.5 million.

"Madagascar" held court at #6 again this week. The family-friendly animated flick about a group of animals who make a break from the Central Park Zoo earned $7 million.

Rounding out the box-office top 10 are "Rebound" starring Martin Lawrence, which debuted at #7 with $6 million; "Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith," which fell from #7 to #8 with $5 million; "The Longest Yard," which slipped from #8 to #9 with more than $3.5 million; and "George A. Romero's Land of the Dead," which tumbled from #5 to #10 after just two weeks in theaters, taking in over $3.2 million.

Overall, ticket sales were down from the corresponding weekend last year, making this the 19th consecutive week of slumping box-office earnings.

Next week, look for "Fantastic Four" and "Dark Water" to debut on the box-office top 10. Also opening in limited release is "Murderball," a documentary about a wheelchair rugby team.

Check out "Set Visit: War Of The Worlds" for a behind-the-scenes look at this week's #1.

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