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Batman Begins enjoys strong US opening but box office slump continues

Story by: Jack Foley

BATMAN began with a healthy $46.9 million take in US cinemas over the June 17-20 weekend, but the Caped Crusader's opening haul wasn't enough to save Hollywood from its worst box office slump in 20 years.

According to studio estimates, Batman Begins has now grossed roughly $71.1 million since opening on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - making it a major success for studio, Warner Bros.

The film - which follows the origins of the Dark Knight - stars Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman (among others). It was directed by British helmer, Christopher Nolan.

The success of the film - both critical and commercial - should now be enough to guarantee a sequel, rumoured to feature another of Batman's nemesis', The Joker.

However, the figures weren't enough to halt the slump in box office fortunes in the US, which is now the worst for 20 years.

According to industry bible, the Hollywood Reporter, the top 12 movies this week took in $128.5 million, which was down 1.6% from the same weekend in 2004.

Although studio executives have subsequently blamed the downturn on a comparatively weak line-up of movies this year - with just a few really big titles vying for the top spots in the charts.

It is not yet clear how much of an impact DVD sales, or internet piracy, or even illegal DVD sales, have had on an industry.

Certainly, Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros, said it would take some time to figure out the true cause of the slump.

He told the Hollywood Reporter: "You can't do it by looking at six months; I think you have to take a couple of years to look at it.

"We're still product-driven, and even though there were and will continue to be strong movies in the Summer, I don't think there have been enough of them."

As for how Batman Begins fared in comparisons to previous Batman films is difficult to tell, given the rising price of tickets and the fact that earlier films only opened on Fridays.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, earlier Bat flicks had opening weekends ranging from $40.5 million to $52.8 million.

It is anticipated that Batman Begins will complete its first week with around $85 million, compared to a range of $59 million to $77 million for the previous Batman movies.

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