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'War of the Worlds' a hit, but box office misses

LOS ANGELES -- ''War of the Worlds" conquered the box office as easily as the movie's aliens overpowered Earth, but it did not have enough firepower to overcome Hollywood's prolonged slump.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise's sci-fi tale took in $77.6 million over the long Fourth of July weekend, lifting its total since debuting Wednesday to $113.3 million, according to studio estimates yesterday.

That fell well short of the all-time high held by ''Spider-Man 2," whose $180.1 million haul in its first six days led Hollywood to a record Fourth of July weekend last year.

The top 12 movies took in $160.1 million, off 25 percent from that 2004 record weekend.

It was the 19th straight weekend that domestic revenues were down compared with last year's, extending the longest slump since analysts began tracking detailed box-office figures.

The worst downturn previously recorded was 17 weekends in 1985.

For the year, revenues are down about 7 percent; while factoring in higher ticket prices, admissions are off 10 percent. The longer the slump drags on, the harder it gets for Hollywood to dig itself out of that revenue hole, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

''There's a spotlight on the slump and people's dissatisfaction about going to the movies. That negative perception can create a negative reality," Dergarabedian said. ''It also gives people the opportunity to vent all the reasons they don't like going to movies, whether it's high ticket prices or the costs at the concession stand. So they feel validated in that by the slump."

''War of the Worlds," Spielberg and Cruise's update on H.G. Wells's classic about space invaders laying siege to Earth, had the second-best four-day opening over Fourth of July, behind the $115.8 million for ''Spider-Man 2."

''War of the Worlds" bumped ''Batman Begins" to second place after two weekends in the top box-office slot. ''Batman Begins" hauled in $18.7 million over the four-day weekend to raise its three-week domestic total to $154.1 million.

The weekend's other new wide release, the Martin Lawrence basketball comedy ''Rebound," fouled out with just $6 million from Friday to yesterday, coming in at No. 7.

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