“The Dark Knight”, the next in the “Batman Begins” franchise, continued to slam its competition at the box office this weekend, taking in an estimated $75.6 million; more than doubling the take of its closest competitor. “Batman”, became the fastest grossing film in history reaching $200 million on its fifth of day release, and seeing $314 million gross on day 10. The Christian Bale/Heath Ledger pairing is wowing audiences and many critics, with murmurings of an Academy nod for Ledger’s riveting portrayal of the Joker, the final role in the young actor’s tragically short-lived career.

Second in line was the opening of “Step Brothers”, the Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly comedy about two immature but aging step-brothers who are forced to share a room once their single parents decide to marry. The film earned a respectable $30 million estimate on its opening weekend amid lukewarm comments from critics.

The ABBA-inspired “Mamma Mia!,” starring Meryl Streep, which boasted the strongest debut ever for a musical, held a third place slot in its second week with $17.8 million. “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was fifth with $9.4 million in ticket sales, according to estimates.

The “X-Files: I want to Believe” opened to fourth place with $10.2 million in ticket sales. The big screen installment of the TV hit that aired from 1993-2002, features David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising their roles as paranormal investigators. The film has received tepid reviews.

TFL and ATBS for ticketing professionals

Stellar numbers at the box office all add up to the busiest weekend in film history, as ticket sales at the nation’s theaters totaled an estimated $258 million, Nielsen EDI reported. This topped the former record of $218 million, which accrued over the weekend of July 2, 2006. Final numbers will be released later today.

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Box Office Grosses
Week Ending July 27, 2008

Rank Title Weekend Total Gross
1 Dark Knight (2008) $76.6 M $314 M
2 Step Brothers (2008) $30 M $30 M
3 Mamma Mia! (2008) $17.9 M $62.7 M
4 The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008) $10.2 M $10.2 M
5 Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) $9.4 M $60 M
6 Hancock (2008) $8.2 M $206 M
7 WALL•E (2008) $6.3 M $195 M
8 Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) $4.9 M $65.9 M
9 Space Chimps (2008) $4.4 M $16 M
10 Wanted (2008) $2.7 M $129 M