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''Fantastic Four'' clobbers the competition

”Fantastic Four” clobbers the competition: The superhero movie pulls in $56 million its first weekend; meanwhile, could the year’s box office slump be ending?

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Fantastic Four:Twentieth Century Fox

A $56 million debut for a movie with no A-list stars? In a word, it’s fantastic.

Fantastic Four, the big-screen version of the old comic book and cartoon series, premiered with $56 million, according to studio estimates, an impressive opening that was helped by a round of midnight showings on Thursday night.

FF‘s big debut easily scored the No. 1 position over Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds, which slipped 52 percent in its second weekend to $31.3 million. After two weeks, the alien thriller has grossed a strong $165.8 million.

Two films were in a virtual tie for third place. Batman Begins fell another 35 percent to $10.2 million (bringing its total to $172.1 million), while the new Jennifer Connelly horror thriller Dark Water premiered with a mediocre $10.1 million. Rounding out the top five was Mr. & Mrs. Smith with $7.9 million, a decline of only 26 percent.

Best of all: The top 12 films grossed a total of $141.1 million, which, if the estimates hold, is actually greater than the top-12 tally from the same weekend last year ($137.8 million). Could the slump of 2005 finally be over? We’ll know when the final figures are released.