War of the Worlds captured the top spot on the NorthAmerican box office chart for the July 4 Independence Day holiday weekend withan estimated gross for the four days from Friday to Monday of $77.6m from 3,908theatres, for a powerful per-theatre average of $19,857.

Having opened on Wednesday, the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielbergalien invasion thriller, co-produced by Paramount and DreamWorks anddistributed domestically by Paramount, comes out of the weekend with anestimated six-day total of $113.3m.

The figures rank War of the Worlds as the secondbiggest Fourth of July opener ever, though its performance was still some wayshort of the $115.8m for four days and $180.1m for six achieved this time lastyear by Spider-Man 2. The film ranks as the second biggest opener ofthis year, behind Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

The performance fulfilled most industry expectations andwas particularly strong, Paramount pointed out, for a non-sequel, non-comicbook project. The studio is how hoping that very strong reviews and the pullingpower of star and director will cause the film, a contemporary version of H GWells' classic sci-fi tale, to hold up well in coming weeks.

Yet even Cruise and Spielberg were not able to pushoverall box office business for the holiday weekend above last year's level.Total box office for the top ten films was down 25% on the 2004 IndependenceDay weekend, lengthening the North American market's run of consecutive downweekends to nineteen.

The weekend's only other new release, Martin Lawrence'scritically panned sports comedy Rebound, disappointed, with an estimated$6m (over four days) for 20th Century Fox, placing the film atnumber seven in the top ten.

Holdovers performed fairly well, however, thoughcomparisons with last weekend are difficult to make because of the extra day'stake included in this week's totals.

In its third week, Warner Bros' Batman Beginsgrossed an estimated $16.7m from 3,765 theatres (average - $4,961), a drop of32% from last week's three-day gross. The film's cumulative total reached$154.1m.

Fox's Mr & Mrs Smith held on well, retainingthird place in the chart with an estimated $12.7m - down 24% -- from 2,985theatres (average - $4,255), bringing the cumulative total to $146m.

Sony's Bewitched, which opened last week in secondplace, slid to fourth with a 46% drop to $10.8m from 3,188 theatres (average -$3,388).

Buena Vista's Herbie: Fully Loaded, which also madeits debut last week, was down just 17% to $10.5m from 3,521 theatres (average -$2,984).

And DreamWorks' Madagascar fell off a mere 6% to $7mfrom 2,526 theatres (average - $2,771). The animated movie's domestic total hasreached $172.5m.

Fox's Star Wars: Episode III slipped to eighth placewith $5m - down only 18% -- from 1,759 theatres (average - $2,843), for a totalof $366.5m.

Paramount's The Longest Yard was off 36% to $3.5mfrom 1,790 theatres (average $1,969), to reach a total of $148.2m.

George Romero's Land of the Dead, from Universal,plunged 68% after its decent debut last weekend, grossing $3.2m from 2,253theatres (average - $1,440) for a cumulative of $16.7m.

Two independent releases expanded their reach over theweekend and reaped big rewards.

Warner Independent's March of the Penguins grossedan estimated $524,000 from 20 theatres for a $26,200 average. And IFC Films' MeAnd You And Everyone We Know took $305,000 from 26 theatres for an averageof $11,730.

Next weekend's wide releases are: 20th CenturyFox's Fantastic Four, with Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklisand Jessica Alba starring as the Marvel Comics superheroes; and Buena Vista's DarkWater, a remake of the Japanese thriller with Jennifer Connolly and TimRoth starring.

Estimated Top Ten US July 1-4 2005

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimatedweekend

gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) War of the Worlds (Paramount) UIP $77.6m$113.3m

2 (1) Batman Begins (Warner Bros) Warner BrosInternational $18.7m $154.1m

3 (3) Mr And Mrs Smith (Fox/Regency) FoxInternational/Regency/Summit Entertainment $12.7m $146.1m

4 (2) Bewitched (Columbia) SPRI $10.8m $40.3m

5 (4) Herbie: Fully Loaded (Walt Disney) BVI $10.5m$36.8m

6 (6) Madagascar (DreamWorks) UIP $7.0m $172.5m

7 (-) Rebound (Fox) Fox Int'l $6m -

8 (7) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith(Fox) Fox Int'l $5.0m $366.5m

9 (8) The Longest Yard (Paramount) SPRI $3.5m$148.2m

10 (5) George A Romero's Land of the Dead(Universal) UIP $3.2m $16.7m