It took a quartet of superheroes to do it, but the US boxoffice losing streak finally ended this weekend as Twentieth Century Fox's FantasticFour powered to the top of the North American chart with a bigger thanexpected estimated gross of $56m.
The weekend tally for the Marvel Comics adaptation -co-financed by Germany's Constantin Film -- pushed the aggregate top ten grossfor the weekend past the figure for the corresponding weekend in 2004 for thefirst time in nearly five months.
Making its debut in 3,602 theatres (for a per theatreaverage of $15,547), Fantastic Four becomes Marvel's fifth biggest opener ever,behind only the two Spider-Man films, X2: X-Men United and Hulk.It opened bigger than the original X-Men -- which started with $54.5mand went on to gross $157.3m domestically and $138.7m internationally - and hasalready out-grossed recent Marvel flops The Punisher and Elektra.
The opening is particularly impressive given that FantasticFour got mostly negative reviews, has only a mid-level cast - led by IoanGruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis - and had been movedout of its preferred Fourth of July opening slot.
The weekend's other new opener, Buena Vista's Dark Water,took fourth place on the chart with an estimated $10.1m from 2,657 theatres, anaverage of $3,811 per theatre.
The figure was at the lower end of the range expected fordirector Walter Salles' US remake of Hideo Nakata's Japanese supernaturalthriller. Produced by Bill Mechanic's Pandemonium Pictures with JenniferConnolly starring, Dark Water got mixed reviews and was expected toappeal to moviegoers slightly older than the usual teen horror crowd.
Paramount's War of the Worlds, which thanks to FantasticFour's move opened virtually unopposed over last weekend's July 4 holidayperiod, fell to second on the chart with an estimated $31.3m - down anacceptable 52% -- from 3,910 theatres, for an average of $8,005.
Warner Bros Batman Begins held up well in its fourthweekend, falling only 35% to an estimated $10.2m from 3,344 theatres (average -$3,050).
Fox's Mr & Mrs Smith continued to show verystrong legs in its fifth weekend, dropping just 26% to an estimated $7.8m from2,781 theatres (average - $2,823).
Good holds were also achieved by the rest of the weekendtop ten: Buena Vista's Herbie: Fully Loaded fell 29% to $6.3m; Sony'sBewitched was down 40% to $5.5m; DreamWorks' Madagascar was off 21% to$4.3m; Fox's Rebound dropped 43% in its second week to $2.9m; and Fox's StarWars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith slid 36% to $2.6m.
Next weekend's wide releases are: Charlie and theChocolate Factory, Warner Bros' remake of family film Willy Wonka andthe Chocolate Factory, with Johnny Depp starring; New Line's raucous comedyThe Wedding Crashers, featuring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson; andSundance Audience Award-winning urban drama Hustle & Flow, fromParamount Classics.
Estimated Top Ten US July 8-10 2005
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimatedweekend
gross/Estimated total to date
1 (-) Fantastic Four (Fox) Fox International $56m -
2 (1) War of the Worlds (Paramount) UIP $31.3m$165.8m
3 (2) Batman Begins (Warner Bros) Warner BrosInternational $10.2m $172.1m
4 (-) Dark Water (Buena Vista) BVI $10.1m -
5 (3) Mr And Mrs Smith (Fox/Regency) FoxInternational/Regency/Summit Entertainment $7.8m $158.6m
6 (5) Herbie: Fully Loaded (Walt Disney) BVI $6.3m$48.5m
7 (4) Bewitched (Columbia) SPRI $5.5m $50.9m
8 (6) Madagascar (DreamWorks) UIP $4.3m $179.5m
9 (7) Rebound (Fox) Fox Int'l $2.9m $11.4m
10 (8) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith(Fox) Fox Int'l $2.6m $370.8m