'Four Brothers' Shoots Up the Box Office

The John Singleton (search) revenge flick "Four Brothers" (search) beat its cinematic siblings to take the top spot at the weekend box office.

But the R-rated action film's three-day ticket sales of $20.7 million did little to stem a prolonged box office slump, which entered its third week after a brief upturn.

The total box office take for the top 12 films was down 16 percent over the same weekend last year, which saw the horror movie "Alien vs. Predator" scare up a three-day gross of $38 million.

"It was a fairly unremarkable weekend at the box office," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office-tracker Exhibitor Relations. "August usually is a slowdown month."

Box office revenues slumped for 19 straight weeks until being lifted briefly last month with the help of hits such as "Fantastic Four."

The supernatural thriller "The Skeleton key," starring Kate Hudson (search), came in second with $15.8 million. While the big screen remake of the TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard" fell 58 percent in its second week, it was good enough for third place with $13 million.

The other debut in wide release, the gross-out sequel "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," finished a distant fifth with $9.4 million.

"Four Brothers," directed by Singleton and distributed by Paramount, stars Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin (Andre 3000 of OutKast) and Garrett Hedlund as adopted siblings reunited in grief and anger after their mother is slain.

The film's audience was 53 percent female and 34 percent black, statistics which the studio believes shows the movie appealed to a broad audience and should do well in its second week.

"It was on the high end of what we expected," said Wayne Lewellen, president of distribution at Paramount. "It should hold on."

"Deuce Bigalow," starring Rob Schneider, did worse than the first film, which opened with $12.2 million in 1999. But that movie went on to earn $65 million domestically, which gives hope to distributor Sony.

"It could have been worse," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures.

The Morgan Freeman-narrated documentary "March of the Penguins" continued to do well, dropping only one spot and bringing its cumulative ticket sales to $37.6 million.

The unrated documentary about the world's filthiest joke, "The Aristocrats," went from nine screens to 86 in most of the country's major markets. The movie, distributed by ThinkFilm, sold $874,562 worth of tickets for a per screen average of $10,169.

Another independent film, "Broken Flowers," starring Bill Murray and directed by Jim Jarmusch also expanded its market this week. The film from Focus features grossed $1.7 million, or $14,070 per screen.

The other new release this weekend, "The Great Raid," from Miramax, earned $3.4 million. Half of the World War II tale's audience was over age 50, unusual for an industry which strains to appeal to a younger audience.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Four Brothers," $20.7 million

2. "The Skeleton Key," $15.8 million

3. "The Dukes of Hazzard," $13 million

4. "The Wedding Crashers," $12 million

5. "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," $9.4 million

6. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," $7.3 million

7. "March of the Penguins," $6.7 million

8. "Sky High," $6.1 million

9. "Must Love Dogs," $4.6 million

10. "The Great Raid," $3.4 million