'Fantastic Four' Saves Hollywood From 19-Week Losing Streak

Despite negative reviews, comic-book feature debuted at #1 with $56 million.

Hollywood couldn't count on Tom Cruise, the Dark Knight, a Sith or Brad Pitt to save it from its worst box-office slump ever, but it did get help from the combined power of another four -- the "Fantastic Four."

The movie version of Marvel Comics' longest-running series bowed at #1 with $56 million, according to early estimates. That was enough to bust Hollywood out of its longest box-office losing streak -- 19 straight weekends with lower numbers than the corresponding weekend the year before. Chronicling the adventures of a group of four individuals imbued with super powers after having their DNA scrambled while in outer space battling a cosmic storm, the film features Jessica Alba as Sue Storm (a.k.a. the Invisible Woman), Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm (the Thing) and Chris Evans as Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) (see [article id="1505086"]"Rewind: The Long, Strange Trip Of The 'Fantastic Four' "[/article]). Julian McMahon plays the Four's enemy, the evil Dr. Doom.

Despite negative reviews, the film managed to knock Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" from the top spot where it debuted last week. Based on the classic H.G. Wells sci-fi novel, the film follows an alien invasion of planet Earth through the experiences of one family (with Tom Cruise as a father and Dakota Fanning as his young daughter) attempting to survive the attack (see [article id="1504903"]" 'War Of The Worlds' Has History Of Freaking Earthlings Out"[/article]). With $31.3 million earned this week, the film dropped from #1 to #2.

Taking a similar tumble was "Batman Begins," which dropped a notch from #2 to #3. Centering on the growth of the Dark Knight -- from witnessing the murder of both his parents to his decision to act as a force of good in Gotham City - the movie continues to draw in audiences, earning more than $10.2 million this week.

Diving into rough waters and just barely surfacing was the new Jennifer Connelly-led thriller, "Dark Water," which debuted at #4 with more than $10.1 million. The film, basically a plumber's nightmare, features Connelly as a recently separated woman named Dahlia Williams looking to make a shiny new life for herself in a dilapidated old apartment. As she begins to hear strange noises and see dark water leaking into her home, Dahlia seeks out the cause of the apartment's creepy occurrences and looks for ways to protect her young daughter (see [article id="1505322"]"Jennifer Connelly Plumbs Depths Of Fear In 'Dark Water' "[/article]).

This week's oldest resident in the top five, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," slipped two notches from #3 to #5 its fifth week in theaters. Starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as married assassins -- both oblivious to their spouse's career until they are assigned to kill each other -- "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" earned more than $7.8 million.

"Herbie: Fully Loaded" dropped a spot from #5 to #6 its third week in theaters. The film that stars Lindsay Lohan as the aspiring-racecar-driver daughter of NASCAR champ took in more than $6.2 million (see [article id="1504444"]"Lindsay Lohan Advises Herself To Say 'No' More"[/article]).

Rounding the top 10 are "Bewitched," which tumbles from #4 to #7 with $5.5 million; "Madagascar," which slips from #6 to #8 with $4.3 million; "Rebound," which falls from #7 to #9 with more than $2.8 million; and "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," which falls from #8 to #10 with $2.6 million.

Overall, ticket sales were up from the corresponding weekend last year.

Next week, look for "Wedding Crashers" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" to debut in the box-office top 10.

Check out "Set Visit: 'Fantastic Four' " for a behind-the-scenes look at this week's #1.

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