STORMY WEATHER AT BOX OFFICE

The Dark Knight's reign as the box-office leader ended propitiously over the weekend as it raked in an additional $16.8 million to become the second-highest grossing film of all time domestically. It has now taken in $471.5 million. Over the past 30 years, the previous No. 2, the original Star Wars, had taken in $461 million. The all-time champ is 1997's Titanic with $601 million. Although it opened with a much smaller gross than Knight, Titanic continued to average around $35 million weekly through its first three months of release. Opening on December 21, 1997, it did not dip below $20 million until the first weekend of April. By that time it had already taken in $515 million. Knight was taken down by the comedy Tropic Thunder which made a modest debut with $26 million. (On a per-theater basis, it was also beaten by the Woody Allen movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which averaged $5,361 at 692 theaters, while Knight averaged $4,677 at 3,590 theaters.) The animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuted with $15.5 million, while the horror film Mirrors opened with $11.1 million. In its second weekend Pineapple Express dropped a whopping 57 percent to place fifth with $10 million. Overall, the box-office total was nearly identical to the comparable weekend a year ago, suggesting that the Olympic Games telecasts had little impact on ticket sales. (Then again, all of the top films advertised heavily on the telecasts).

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Tropic Thunder, $26 million; 2. The Dark Knight, $16.8 million; 3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, $15.5 million; 4. Mirrors, $11.1 million; 5. Pineapple Express, $10 million; 6. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, $8.6 million; 7. Mamma Mia!, $6.5 million; 8. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, $5.9 million; 9. Step Brothers, $5 million; 10. Vicky Cristina Barcelona, $3.7 million.

KNIGHT RETURNS TO NO. 1 OVERSEAS

Overseas, The Dark Knight made a comeback of sorts, returning to the No. 1 spot with an estimated $42.4 million to bring its foreign total to $328.6 million, according to trade reports. It had been taken down two weeks ago by The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which fell to second place with $32.6 million. Its overseas total now stands at $196.6 million. But clearly the sensation of the foreign market remains the musical Mamma Mia!, which broke through the $200-million marker with $16.8 million to bring its total to $204.6 million. It has taken in $116.4 million domestically.

IRON MAN SAYS HE "DIDN'T GET" BATMAN MOVIE

Robert Downey Jr. may only be spoofing, as he reportedly does to hilarious effect playing a white Australian actor playing an African-American soldier in Tropic Thunder, but he has boldly given The Dark Knight its worst review yet. When asked during an interview with MovieHole.net about the Batman sequel, Downey said that he "didn't get it. ... [I] still can't tell you what happened in the movie, what happened to the character." He said that while watching the movie, it dawned on him, "I get it. This is so high-brow and so f***ing smart, I clearly need a college education to understand this movie." He then added, "You know what? F*** DC comics. That's all I have to say and that's where I'm really coming from." Last month, Downey starred as Iron Man, created by DC comics' principal rival, Marvel.

SAG LEADERS NOW BATTLING ON TWO FRONTS

Cracks in the unity of the Screen Actors Guild widened over the weekend as New York members demanded that a federal mediator be called in to break the stalemate in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Despite claims by SAG Executive Director Doug Allen and President Alan Rosenberg that the union has been holding informal talks with members of the AMPTP, the New York members maintained, "Nothing is happening, and we're no closer to a deal today than we were six weeks ago." Presumably speaking not only for the union but also whomever the union is negotiating with, Allen said that mediation "has not, up to this point, been viewed as something the parties feel would facilitate an agreement." For its part, the AMPTP issued a statement saying that "no meetings, formal or informal" are taking place.

NETFLIX DELIVERIES RESUME

Netflix is still not saying what caused an error in its system that resulted in millions of customers not receiving DVDs on time last week, but they did say on Friday that the problem had been resolved. It indicated that the glitch affected all 55 Netflix distribution centers. The company said that it would issue a 15-percent refund to subscribers whose DVDs were delayed. It blamed the problem on "severe technical difficulties," but was otherwise closed-lipped about the problem.

Brian B.