LOS ANGELES – Batman got an assist from witches, zombies and a valiant little Volkswagen (search), yet the combination could not keep Hollywood from sinking to its longest modern box-office slump.
"Batman Begins" (search) took in $26.8 million to remain the top movie for the second-straight weekend, lifting its 12-day total to $121.7 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Overall business tumbled despite a rush of familiar new titles — "Bewitched," (search) a "Love Bug" update and the latest zombie tale from director George Romero. Revenues for the top 12 movies came in at $116.5 million, down 16 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Fahrenheit 9/11" opened as the top movie with $23.9 million.
It was the 18th weekend in a row the box office declined, passing a 1985 slump of 17 weekends that had been the longest since analysts began keeping detailed figures on movie grosses.
Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell's sit-com update "Bewitched" debuted in second place with $20.2 million.
Audiences were lukewarm toward the weekend's other major premieres. "Herbie: Fully Loaded," with Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel of the speedy VW "Love Bug," opened at No. 4 with $12.75 million, raising its total since debuting Wednesday to $17.8 million.
"George Romero's Land of the Dead," the fourth installment of the flesh-munching zombie saga from the director of "Night of the Living Dead," debuted at No. 5 with $10.2 million.
In narrower release, the documentary "Rize," about the south-central Los Angeles dance form known as krumping, opened at No. 12 with $1.6 million.
In limited release, the nature documentary "March of the Penguins" had a strong debut of $121,788 in four theaters. "Yes," starring Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian and Sam Neill in a drama about an affair between an Irish-American married woman and a Lebanese man, opened with $29,437 in seven cinemas.
Theater revenues have skidded about 7 percent compared to 2004's, and factoring in higher ticket prices, movie admissions are off 10 percent for the year, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
If the slump continues, Hollywood is on course for a third-straight year of declining admissions and its lowest ticket sales since the mid-1990s.
"We're working with a pretty huge deficit that would take a lot of business to overcome," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "Just breaking the slump is not enough. We would have to reverse the trend and see attendance on a big uptick."
Even with a big Fourth of July weekend expected from Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise's "War of the Worlds," which opens Wednesday, Hollywood still may not snap its losing streak. Over the same weekend last year, "Spider-Man 2" pulled in $180 million in its first six days, leading the industry to a record Fourth of July.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Batman Begins," $26.8 million.
2. "Bewitched," $20.2 million.
3. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," $16.75 million.
4. "Herbie: Fully Loaded," $12.75 million.
5. "George Romero's Land of the Dead," $10.2 million.
6. "Madagascar," $7.3 million.
7. "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith," $6.25 million.
8. "The Longest Yard," $5.5 million.
9. "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D," $3.4 million.
10. "Cinderella Man," $3.3 million.