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'Fantastic Four' Rides $57 Million Wave to Top Box Office

The 20th Century Fox sequel "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" debuted as the No. 1 weekend flick with $57.4 million in sales, slightly surpassing the $56.1 million opening of "Fantastic Four" two years ago, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four

Among other new wide releases, a favorite teen detective had trouble finding an audience as the Warner Bros. mystery "Nancy Drew" premiered with a so-so $7.1 million to finish at No. 7.

Opening in narrower release was the Weinstein thriller "DOA: Dead or Alive," an adaptation of the martial-arts video game that pulled in just $232,000. Playing in 505 theaters, "DOA" averaged a paltry $460 a cinema, compared to $14,499 in 3,959 theaters for "Fantastic Four" and $2,732 in 2,612 locations for "Nancy Drew."

The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, George Clooney and Brad Pitt's "Ocean's Thirteen," fell to No. 2 with $19.1 million. The Warner Bros. casino caper raised its 10-day total to $69.8 million, putting it on track to become the franchise's third $100 million hit.

Despite the big opening for "Fantastic Four," Hollywood revenues slipped for the third straight weekend. The top 12 movies took in $138.8 million, down 4% from the same weekend last year, when "Cars," "Nacho Libre" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" led with a combined $86 million.

Blockbuster May

The industry had a blockbuster May with "Spider-Man," "Shrek" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels, but big films are not holding their audiences after huge opening weekends.

After a surge early this year, attendance has slipped to just a fraction ahead of 2006, diminishing prospects of a record summer that many analysts had predicted.

"We've seen our advantage over last year slowly being chipped away," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "A lot of films are doing what these big summer movies do, open big and drop off fast."

The new "Fantastic Four" reunites the quartet of astronauts-turned-mutant-superheroes, played by Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans. This time, the comic-book heroes join forces with archenemy Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) to take down the Silver Surfer, an emissary leading a planet-destroying entity to Earth.

The studio and filmmakers toned down the action so the sequel could earn a PG rating to broaden the audience to family viewers. The first "Fantastic Four" was rated PG-13.

"A lot of the superhero comic-book movies are sort of geared toward being darker and edgier. We think `Fantastic Four' is a more family friendly group of superheroes," said Chris Aronson, senior vice president for distribution at 20th Century Fox. "We wanted to make sure to cast a wide net and go after the family audience, and it worked."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," $57.4 million.

2. "Ocean's Thirteen," $19.1 million.

3. "Knocked Up," $14.5 million.

4. "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," $12 million.

5. "Surf's Up," $9.3 million.

6. "Shrek the Third," $9 million.

7. "Nancy Drew," $7.1 million.

8. "Hostel: Part II," $3 million.

9. "Mr. Brooks," $2.8 million.

10. "Spider-Man 3," $2.5 million.

___

Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a joint venture of General Electric and Vivendi Universal; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp. ; DreamWorks, Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom ; Disney'sparent is Walt Disney ; Miramax is a division of Walt Disney; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp. ; Warner Bros., New Line, Warner Independent and Picturehouse are units of Time Warner; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.

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