Warner Bros' Batman Begins held off Columbia's Bewitchedand two other new competitors over the weekend to retain the top spot on theNorth American box office chart.

Overall box office for the weekend, however, was down on theprevious year for the eighteenth consecutive weekend, a new record.

After its strong five-day opening, Batman Beginsgrossed an estimated $26.8m from 3,858 theatres (for a per-theatre average of$6,939) this weekend, down a relatively modest 45.1% from last weekend'sthree-day figure.

The hold compares well with other superhero movies(second-weekend drops of more than 50% are common for the genre) and isparticularly impressive given that the male-skewing Batman Begins got aboost last weekend from the US celebration of Fathers' Day.

Columbia's Bewitched, a 're-imagining' of thesixties sitcom with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell starring, didn't come quiteas close as expected to knocking Batman off his perch. Appealing mostlyto females over 25, the poorly reviewed comedy came in second with an estimated$20.2m from 3,174 theatres (for a $6,364 average).

Bewitched may have been hurt by a strong hold from20th Century Fox's Mr & Mrs Smith, which dropped only35.7% in its third week to come in third on the chart with an estimated $16.7mfrom 3,265 theatres (average - $5,130).

Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded, a revival of thecompany's Love Bug family franchise with Lindsay Lohan starring, openedin fourth spot. The G-rated comedy adventure, which got mixed reviews,performed about as expected, grossing an estimated $12.7m from 3,521 theatres(average - $3,621) over the weekend, bringing its five-day total (the filmopened on Wednesday) to $17.8m.

The weekend's third new release was George A Romero'sLand of the Dead, distributed in the US by Universal. With glowing reviewsbehind it the zombie horror movie, the third from genre master Romero, gobbledan estimated $10.2m from 2,249 theatres, for a $4,550 average and fifth placeon the chart.

DreamWorks' Madagascar was pushed down the chart bythe new releases but still showed impressive legs, falling off just 31.8% inits fifth week with an estimated $7.3m from 2,948 theatres (average - $2,484).Its running total of $160m puts it within $1m of Shark Tale's finaldomestic tally.

Fox's Star Wars: Episode III also looked strong,dropping 37.7% in its sixth week to $6.2m from 2,371 theatres (average -$2,636). The film's running total stands at $358.6m.

Universal's The Perfect Man, which openeddisappointingly last weekend, dropped out of the top ten, as did Warner Bros' TheSisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Paramount's The Honeymooners.

Among limited releases, Lions Gate's dance documentary Rizealmost cracked the top ten by grossing an estimated $1.6m from 352 theatres,for a $4,545 average.

IFC Films' Me And You And Everyone We Know,meanwhile, continued to look strong in its limited runs. It grossed around$26,000 over its second weekend on a single New York screen (13% down on itsdebut) and opened in Chicago and Los Angeles. The latter market produced asingle-screen gross that is expected to be more than $20,000.

Wide releases next weekend, the July 4 holiday weekend,are: Paramount's War of the Worlds, a second sci-fi outing for StevenSpielberg and Tom Cruise; and 20th Century Fox's sports comedy Rebound,starring Martin Lawrence.

Estimated Top Ten US Jun 24-26 2005

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimatedweekend

gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) Batman Begins (Warner Bros) Warner BrosInternational $26.8m $121.7m

2 (-) Bewitched (Columbia) SPRI $20.2m -

3 (2) Mr And Mrs Smith (Fox/Regency) FoxInternational/Regency/Summit Entertainment $16.7m $125.4m

4 (-) Herbie: Fully Loaded (Walt Disney) BVI $12.7m$17.8m

5 (-) George A Romero's Land of the Dead (Universal)UIP $10.2m -

6 (3) Madagascar (DreamWorks) UIP $7.3m $160.0m

7 (4) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith(Fox) Fox Int'l $6.2m $358.6m

8 (5) The Longest Yard (Paramount) SPRI $5.5m$141.9m

9 (6) The Adventures Of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3D (Miramax)SPRI $3.4m $30.5m

10 (6) Cinderella Man (Universal) BVI $3.3m $49.6m