LOS ANGELES - Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" annihilated the competition, grossing $44 million in its first weekend and $72.5 million since opening Wednesday.
Reese Witherspoon's "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" debuted in second place with a $22.9 million weekend and $39.2 million since its Wednesday premiere.
The weekend's other new wide release, the animated "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," bombed despite a voice cast that includes Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer. "Sinbad" opened in sixth place with $6.8 million for the weekend and $10 million since debuting Wednesday.
Despite the rush of high-profile new movies, Hollywood's box-office slump continued, with revenues down for the fourth straight weekend. The top 12 movies grossed $127 million, down 9 percent from the same period last year, which was the highest-grossing Fourth of July weekend ever.
Movie revenues are running about 5 percent behind last year's, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
"I really don't know why. That's the million-dollar question, or hundred-million-dollar question," Dergarabedian said.
"Terminator 3" out-grossed the opening weekend of its 1991 predecessor, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," by about 40 percent. But factoring in higher admission prices since then, "Terminator 3" sold slightly fewer tickets.
Theaters are more crowded today with franchise flicks competing for the audience's attention, "so to be in the midst of a lot of competition and still improve on the previous film's numbers, we're pretty happy," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., which released "Terminator 3."
The new movie features Schwarzenegger's time-traveling cyborg battling a female terminator programmed to kill the destined savior of humanity in a future war with intelligent machines. The film was directed by Jonathan Mostow, taking over for "Terminator" creator James Cameron, who decided against returning for a third installment.
"Legally Blonde 2," with Witherspoon's perky, stylish attorney on a lobbying mission in Washington, outdid the opening weekend of its 2001 predecessor by about $2.5 million.
With an $11 million weekend, "Finding Nemo" pulled its total haul to $274.9 million, passing "The Matrix Reloaded" as the top-grossing movie so far this year. "Finding Nemo" also passed "Shrek" to become No. 2 on the all-time list for animated movies, second only to "The Lion King," which grossed $328.5 million.
In limited release, Francois Ozon's "Swimming Pool" opened strongly, taking in $286,000 in just 13 theaters. The film, which expands to more theaters Friday, stars Charlotte Rampling as a mystery writer whose prudishness is tested by the wanton ways of her publisher's daughter.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," $44 million.
2. "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde," $22.9 million.
3. "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," $14.2 million.
4. "Finding Nemo," $11 million.
5. "The Hulk," $8.2 million.
6. "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," $6.8 million.
7. "28 Days Later," $6.1 million.
8. "The Italian Job," $4.3 million.
9. "Bruce Almighty," $4 million.
10. "2 Fast 2 Furious," $2.4 million.