LOS ANGELES – "Sin City" (search) proved an irresistible temptation for audiences as the highly stylized comic-book adaptation led the weekend box office with a $28.1 million debut.
Opening in second place was Queen Latifah's comedy "Beauty Shop," (search) a spinoff of the "Barbershop" franchise, which took in $13.5 million for the weekend, according to industry estimates Sunday. Since opening Wednesday, "Beauty Shop" had grossed $17.3 million.
The comedy "Guess Who," (search) the previous weekend's top-grossing movie, slipped to No. 3 with $13 million, lifting its 10-day total to $41.3 million.
Overall, movie revenues slipped for the sixth straight weekend. The top 12 movies took in $98.3 million, down 14 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Hellboy" and "Walking Tall" opened on top of the box office.
The slump follows a healthy start to 2005 in which movie revenues had surged about 10 percent ahead of 2004's. Revenues now are running even with last year's at about $2 billion heading into Hollywood's busy season.
"Summer's coming, and summer better save the day," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "Better to have a slow pre-summer than a slow summer, I guess."
"Sin City" is adapted from Frank Miller's noirish comics in a wicked town filled with tough guys and gorgeous dames. The movie's huge cast includes Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Benicio Del Toro, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Clive Owen, Elijah Wood, Alexis Bledel and Brittany Murphy.
Director Robert Rodriguez, who had Miller on the set as co-director, shot the actors against green-screen backgrounds, adding the jutting buildings, shadowy interiors and other backdrops later through computer-generated imagery.
The movie is presented largely in stark black and white, with a few splashes of color to highlight such images as splatters of blood, a woman's blond hair or a red dress.
Rodriguez, whose films range from the "Spy Kids" family franchise to the violent thrillers "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" and "From Dusk Till Dawn," is a multitasking director who handles his own shooting, editing and many other duties. His economical work ethic produces movies that resemble big Hollywood productions costing $100 million or more, only at a fraction of the price.
Costing about $40 million to make, "Sin City" grossed nearly three-fourths of its production budget in just the first weekend, putting the movie on the fast track to profitability.
"That's the genius of Robert Rodriguez," said Josh Greenstein, head of marketing for Dimension Films, the Miramax banner that released "Sin City" and the "Spy Kids" flicks. "His way of working is very cost-effective."
"Beauty Shop" stars Latifah reprising the hairdresser role she originated in "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," this time opening her own salon filled with wacky employees and customers.
With females making up two-thirds of the audience, distributor MGM figured "Beauty Shop" would have some longevity in theaters.
"Females, they don't rush out to the movies the first weekend, so I think this one's going to hang around for a while," said Erik Lomis, MGM head of distribution.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Sin City," $28.1 million.
2. "Beauty Shop," $13.5 million.
3. "Guess Who," $13 million.
4. "Robots," $10 million.
5. "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous," $8.4 million.
6. "The Pacifier," $6.1 million.
7. "The Ring 2," $5.8 million.
8. "The Upside of Anger," $4.1 million.
9. "Hitch," $3 million.
10. "Ice Princess," $2.6 million.