Batman Begins began with the expected big bucks, but not even the Caped Crusader could stop the villainous box-office slump of 2005.
The latest batflick swooped in with a solid $48.7 million over the three-day weekend, according to studio figured Monday; still, the cash registers rang up about 1 percent less business than last year, extending Hollywood's dubious streak to 17th straight down weekends.
The new ripped-from-the-comics origin tale, starring Christian Bale as rich playboy Bruce Wayne/the crime-fighting Dark Knight, opened Wednesday with $15 million at 3,858 sites. Batman Begins has now grossed $72.9 million in five days, which, per Warner Bros., is the best five-day haul in the history of the franchise
The four previous movies in the studio's batseries all opened on a Friday and at considerably fewer theaters, so the comparisons are a little skewed. The latest return to Gotham City didn't quite match the $52.7 million debut weekend for Batman Forever, starring Val Kilmer in 1995, but Batman Begins' Friday-Sunday haul beat the $40.5 million opening of the 1989 original Batman, starring Michael Keaton, as well as the $45.6 million for 1992's Batman Returns, also starring Keaton, and the $42.8 million opening weekend for the last one, 1997's Batman and Robin, starring George Clooney.
Director Christopher Nolan's very dark take on Bruce Wayne's backstory, which cost a reported $150 million to make and costars Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Rutger Hauer, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and, of course, Katie Holmes (whose engagement to Tom Cruise reportedly had negligible impact on the initial box office), didn't quite measure up in the per-theater stats. Batman Begins averaged $12,635 per site, below the seat-filling sums of all the previous movies: Batman's $18,462 at 2,194 sites; Batman Returns' $17,280 at 2,644 sites; Batman Forever's $18,573 at 2,842 sites; and even the $14,612 at 2,934 sites for the near franchise killer, Batman and Robin.
Batman Begins also conquered international markets, racking up an estimated $41.7 million in 73 foreign territories, including $7.8 million in Britain and $3 million in France over the three-day weekend, and another $4.2 million in five days from Mexico.
Meantime, The Perfect Man, flamed out in its attempt at counterprogramming. The romantic family comedy, starring Hilary Duff as a meddling teen trying to get her mom (Heather Locklear) hitched up, only managed $5.3 million to debut in eighth place. Costarring Sex and the City's Chris Noth, the PG Universal entry opened in 2,087 theaters and averaged just $2,540.
Last week's number one, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, starring tabloid teases Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, dropped 48 percent to second place, earning $26 million with $7,545 per screen average. Its two-week gross stands at an attractive $96.7 million.
Also going strong were Madagascar and Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith. The CGI critter 'toon was down only 38 percent to third place with $10.7 million, bringing its four-week gross to $146.8 million; while the latest Skywalker saga dipped just 32 percent, snagging $10 million in fourth place to bring its five-week tally to $348.1 million.
The biggest drop among the top 10 belonged to The Honeymooners. Paramount's remake of the TV classic plummeted 52 percent from its dud opening weekend, earning just $2.6 million in 10th place to bring its two-week total to a $9.6 million.
Among the new limited-release players, Heights averaged $7,555 at seven sites. The R-rated Sony Pictures Classic release, an ensemble drama about romantic angst starring Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden and Jesse Bradford, totaled $52,885.
Also making a splash on the art-house circuit: My Summer of Love. The R-rated Focus release about young girls' passions, starring Natalie Press and Emily Blunt, averaged $5,295 at 17 screens for $90,022.
Overall the top 12 movies grossed $129.6 million, compared to last year's $130.5 million, when Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was top dog. Business was also down from last weekend by 6 percent.
Here's a recap of the top 10 films based on final studio figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Batman Begins, $48.7 million
2. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, $26 million
3. Madagascar, $10.7 million
4. Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith, $10 million
5. The Longest Yard, $8.2 million
6. The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D, $6.7 million
7. Cinderella Man, $5.6 million
8. The Perfect Man, $5.3 million
9. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, $3.1 million
10. The Honeymooners, $2.6 million
(Originally published June 20, 2005 at 12:40 p.m. PT.)