POW! Batman Batters Competition

Director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale managed to breathe new life into an exhausted franchise, taking Warner Bros.’ Batman Begins to the top of the box office charts over the weekend. The comic-book superhero origin story opened on Wednesday and has since taken in an estimated $71 million. And while that’s not exactly Spider-Man money, it’s plenty enough to herald the return of Bob Kane’s pointy-eared dark knight.

Bale, the new face behind the cowl, did double duty in theaters as his voice was heard in Disney’s English-language version of Hayao Miyazaki’s latest animated opus, Howl’s Moving Castle. The director’s latest effort since the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, Howl’s opened a bit wider over the weekend and shot up to the 13th spot with around $802,000 in just 202 venues. Based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones, the movie was adapted for the screen by Reiko Yoshida and animated by world-renowned Studio Ghibli. The critically lauded family pic has earned just north of $1.4 million in two weeks.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith from 20th Century Fox settled for bat droppings, slipping to No. 2 with an estimated $27.3 million, which brings it close to the $100 million mark in its second week. The action/comedy starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie held the runner-up position from DreamWorks’ CG-animated Madagascar, which lands at No. 3 with approximately $11.1 million for the weekend and a four-week cume of $147 million.

Star Wars: Episode III–Revenge of the Sith follows with around $9.7 million and Paramount’s remake of The Longest Yard rounds out the top five with $8 million.