The boys narrowly beat the girls at the box office as DreamWorks' "Tropic Thunder" held on to the No. 1 spot for another weekend.
It became only the third film in a blockbuster-packed summer to stay on top for two weekends in a row, along with "Iron Man," which also starred Downey, and "The Dark Knight."
"We have a film that plays to a broad audience and one that perhaps bears repeat viewing," said Chip Sullivan, a DreamWorks spokesman.
Coming in second this weekend was Sony Pictures' "The House Bunny," which opened with $15.1 million, according to estimates. The comedy, penned by the pair behind the 2001 hit "Legally Blonde," Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, features flaxen-haired Anna Faris as a Playboy Mansion exile mothering and making over an entire sorority of social outcasts.
"It really played well to its core audience," said Rory Bruer, president of distribution for Sony, noting that half the audience was under age 21 and over two-thirds were women. "It's the only comedy for this demographic for the summer."
Other fare targeted to women didn't perform as well. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Dimension Films' "The Longshots," the PG-rated story of a young girl quarterback starring Ice Cube and directed by Limp Bizkit rap-rocker Fred Durst, opened to an estimated total of $4.3 million, below its expected draw of $7.4 million.
The combined star power of small-screen heroines Blake Lively and America Ferrera couldn't keep their feature film sequel "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" in the top 10. The Warner Bros. picture pulled $2.7 million in its third week.
Opening in third place this weekend with an estimated $12.3 million was Universal Pictures' testosterone-fueled "Death Race," a gritty R-rated remake of a 1975 film about car races with life-or-death stakes starring Jason Statham. The film's gross fell below expectations, but was consistent with opening totals for past Statham films such as "Transporter 2," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media by Numbers.
"Jason Statham has a following," he said. "This is in line with how his movies do. It's an intriguing film."
Warner Bros.' reliable franchise films "The Dark Knight" and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" matched expectations. The Batman movie came in fourth with $10.3 million, according to the studio, bringing its total to $489 million. The "Star Wars" offering earned an estimated $5.7 million for a two-week total of $25 million.
"Pineapple Express," Sony's stoner farce produced by Judd Apatow and featuring two of his comedy troupe, Seth Rogen and James Franco, took in an estimated $5.6 million. The film, made for $27 million, has earned $73.9 million in its three weeks in theaters.
"Sony is the king of comedy right now," Dergarabedian said. "Comedy is ruling the box office, and audiences are showing they're in the mood to have a good time."
Woody Allen's romantic comedy "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," about the amorous adventures of young American women abroad, also did well on fewer than 700 screens, despite dropping from 10th to 11th place in its second week. The MGM and Weinstein Co. film brought in $3 million.
Still, 20th Century Fox's comedy "The Rocker" failed to make the top 10 for the weekend after its Wednesday opening. The film, about a down-on-his-luck hair band drummer played by Rainn Wilson -- known for his more buttoned-up television role as Dwight Schrute on "The Office" -- took in $2.8 million.
"Hamlet 2," an R-rated comedy about a high school's production of a Shakespearean sequel, had a strong per-screen showing, earning $435,294 in 103 theaters. Universal Pictures' specialty division, Focus Features, plans to release the film on more than 1,500 screens Wednesday.
Gross earnings for movies were down 4% compared with the same weekend last year, according to Media by Numbers estimates, and year-to-date revenue is down 0.6% from the same period in 2007. But summer has been good to the box office, Dergarabedian said, with "Dark Knight" propelling the industry toward a $4-billion season.
"The movie industry is still very robust and very strong," he said. "And 'Dark Knight' is providing that extra oomph."
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Weekend box office
Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:
*--* Rank Movie 3-day gross Total Weeks -- (studio) (millions) (millions) 1 Tropic Thunder $16.1 $65.7 2 -- (DreamWorks/Paramount) 2 The House Bunny 15.1 15.1 1 -- (Sony/Columbia) 3 Death Race 12.3 12.3 1 -- (Universal) 4 The Dark Knight 10.3 489.2 6 -- (Warner Bros.) 5 Star Wars: The Clone Wars 5.7 25.0 2 -- (Warner Bros.) 6 Pineapple Express 5.6 73.9 3 -- (Sony/Columbia) 7 Mirrors 4.9 20.1 2 -- (20th Century Fox) 8 The Longshots 4.3 4.3 1 -- (MGM) 9 Mamma Mia! 4.3 124.5 6 -- (Universal) 10 The Mummy: Tomb 4.1 93.8 4 -- of the Dragon Emperor -- (Universal) *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2007 (in billions) from 2007 $103 -4% $6.5 -0.6% *--*
Source: Media by Numbers