Weekend Box Office 6/24-6/26

<span style='font-size:21pt;line-height:100%'>'Batman' Stays on Top, 'Bewitched' Opens Lukewarm, 'Herbie' Not So Loaded</span>

The box office slump continued this weekend, with total grosses down 16% from last year's numbers. June 24th to the 26th makes the eighteenth week in a row that box office total grosses were down from comparative totals the previous year. As a whole, the box office is looking bleak, with ticket sales at their lowest since the mid-1990s. Analysts believe the decline in profits is due to the growing popularity of waiting for movies to come out on DVD and watching them at home.

Though down from last year's totals, this weekend's box office pulled in a respectable $117 million. The cloaked hero of Gotham City pulled in $26.7 million, landing 'Batman Begins' in the top spot of the box office for the second week in a row. For a movie remarkably hailed by so many critics, Batman's figures seem disappointing. The $150 million budgeted flick has a 16-day total of $121.7 million, far from comparable 16-day grosses of similar summer blockbusters such as 'Spiderman' or 'X-2.' In addition, 'Batman Begins' fell 45.1% in gross total in its second weekend, and will most likely only continue to slip from there.

Debuting at number two with an unimpressive $20.2 million was Nicole Kidman vehicle, 'Bewitched.' This feel-good comedy about remaking the 60's sitcom of the same name originated as a sure-bet for success until it was completely slaughtered by critics and moviegoers early screentesters alike. The surprise hit of the summer, 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith,' continued to impress falling one spot on the box office chart to number three and 35.7% in gross total in its third weekend. The Smiths opened to a hefty $50.3 million in its opening weekend, thanks to bravos from the critics and scandal surrounding what may have happened behind the scenes.

Coming in fourth was the Lindsay Lohan family film, 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' with $12.8 million and a less-than-enthusiastic $17.8 million 5-day bow. No one expected for the love bug to do wonders, but Herbie may have to start singing and dancing too if it expects to meet its $50 million budget (much of which went into Lohan's salary). Zombie movie veteran George A. Romero found himself rounding out the top 5 at the box office with a $10.2 million opening weekend for 'Land of the Dead.' The newest installment to the 'of the Dead' series is applauded by critics, but comes up short in comparison to its predecessors. Romero should be sighing a breath of fresh air, however, as the film is assured to match and surpass its $15 million budget.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth places belonged to week-to-week box office competitors 'Madagascar' with $7.3 million 'Star Wars Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith' with $6.3 million, and 'The Longest Yard' with $5.5 million. All three of these movies have surpassed their production budgets and will only continue to make money. In fact, 'Star Wars' currently stands as this year's highest grossing film with almost $360 million dollars under its belt, not to mention an additional $360 million from theaters overseas.

A ninth place weekend gross of $3.4 million was held by 'The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl (in 3D),' which comes to a three week total gross of $30.5 million dollars. 'Sharkboy' is clearly no 'Spy Kids.' Rounding out the top 10 of this weekend was critically hailed but minimally seen 'Cinderella Man' with $3.3 million, totaling a disappointing gross of $49.5 million. Its production budget of $88 million may still be matched, however, come Oscar season during its probable re-release and award buzz.

Also of-note is the very strong opening for heart-warming documentary, 'March of the Penguins.' This inside look at the beauty behind Antarctic penguins grossed $130,000 in only four theaters, a remarkable $32,500 gross per theater. In comparison, the largest weekend gross of all time owned by the first 'Spider-Man,' came in at $31,768 per theater. That's almost $1,000 less per theater than the penguin documentary.

Next week, the long anticipated opening of Spielberg sci-fi film 'War of the Worlds' is finally here. Will it live up to expectations and become one of the greatest box office successes of all time, or will it be lost amidst all the box office let-down? Check back next week!

And please, post your thoughts and comments!