The Caped Crusader easily fended off a suburban witch to lead the North American box office for a second weekend, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.
"Batman Begins," starring British actor Christian Bale as Gotham City billionaire Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting alter ego, sold about $26.8 million worth of tickets in the three days beginning Friday. After 12 days, the Warner Bros. release has earned $121.7 million, having cost about $150 million to make.
"Bewitched," Columbia Pictures' update of the 1960s TV series, starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, opened at No. 2 with $20.2 million. Michael Caine has a supporting role in both films.
"Mr. & Mrs. Smith," a crime thriller starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, slipped one place to No. 3 with $16.8 million, taking the total for the 20th Century Fox release to $125.4 million after three weekends.
Two rookies rounded out the top five: "Herbie: Fully Loaded," a remake about a magical Volkswagen Beetle, starring Lindsay Lohan, earned $12.8 million for the weekend, and $17.8 million since getting a headstart with a Wednesday opening. The zombie horror "Land of the Dead" followed at No. 5 with $10.2 million for the three days.
While "Batman Begins" enjoyed a strong hold after a decent bow last weekend, and the three newcomers were generally solid, overall sales fell for the 18th consecutive weekend when compared with year-ago figures. According to published reports, this is the worst slump at the box office in about 20 years. Industry observers have pointed the finger at such factors as audience dissatisfaction with mindless summer fare, higher ticket prices and the increasing appeal of DVDs.
"Batman Begins," directed by Christopher Nolan ("Memento"), and also starring Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes, lost just 45 percent of its audience from last weekend. Usually, such big films drop 50 percent or more. A Warner Bros. official said the studio's estimate was conservative, and the weekend tally could be closer to $28 million when final data are released on Monday. Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc .
Holmes' excitable fiance, Tom Cruise, is expected to grab the box office crown during the upcoming July 4 holiday weekend with "War of the Worlds," his latest collaboration with director Steven Spielberg. The film opens on Wednesday.
"Bewitched" stars Kidman in the role made famous by Elizabeth Montgomery. In the film, she plays a woman who gets cast in a modern version of the TV series. Ferrell plays a washed-up actor in the role of Darrin, her husband. The film, which cost about $85 million to make, played mostly to women over 25, said an executive at Columbia, a unit of Sony Corp.
Walt Disney Co.'s "Herbie: Fully Loaded," targeted squarely at families, stars Lohan as a plucky competitor in the NASCAR racing circuit. The league worked closely with Disney throughout the development and production process.
"Land of the Dead," from veteran horror director George Romero, stars John Leguizamo as the leader of a group of humans who must battle both a horde of cannibalistic zombies and a corrupt mogul played by Dennis Hopper. The grisly Universal Pictures release, budgeted at $15 million, played primarily to male viewers under 25. The studio is a unit of NBC Universal, which is majority-owned by General Electric Co.
Next week, Tom Cruise shows up to save the world from aliens and Ritalin.