The action comedy "Tropic Thunder" weathered a rush of new movies to remain No. 1 for a second-straight weekend with $16.1 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Paramount-DreamWorks release — starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black as actors caught up in real battle while shooting a war movie — raised its 12-day total to $65.7 million.
"Tropic Thunder" came in just ahead of Sony's campus comedy "The House Bunny," which debuted in second place with $15.1 million. "The House Bunny" stars Anna Faris as an ostracized Playboy bunny who becomes den mother to a sorority of campus misfits.
Universal's "Death Race" — an update of 1975's "Death Race 2000," with Jason Statham starring as a driver in a kill-or-be-killed auto race of the future — opened at No. 3 with $12.3 million.
The weekend's other new wide releases, Ice Cube's sports drama "The Longshots" and Rainn Wilson's music comedy "The Rocker," opened weakly.
"The Longshots" — an MGM-Weinstein Co. release starring Ice Cube as a former high school star coaching his niece, the first girl to play Pop Warner football — came in at No. 8 with $4.3 million.
20th Century Fox's "The Rocker," starring Wilson as an over-the-hill heavy-metal drummer who gets a chance at stardom with a high school band, took in $2.8 million to finish at No. 12.
After a run of blockbuster weekends, late summer was proving the usual dumping ground for modest movies as business slowed and audiences eased into back-to-school mode.
"There isn't that divide where there's a couple of huge movies coming every week," said DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan.
Summer's biggest hit, "The Dark Knight," continued its climb up the box-office charts, placing fourth with $10.3 million. The Warner Bros. Batman sequel has taken in $489.2 million on its way to becoming the second film ever to top $500 million, after "Titanic" ($600.8 million).
Overall movie revenues of $3.9 billion are slightly ahead of last summer's record pace. But higher admission prices mean the actual number of tickets sold is down about 3 percent compared to summer 2007, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
Still, Hollywood should finish with a box-office record and a second-straight summer topping the $4 billion mark.
"Thank you, `Dark Knight.' That's added close to half a billion dollars," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. "One film like `The Dark Knight' can make a huge difference."
In limited release, Focus Features' comedy "Hamlet 2" pulled in $435,000. Starring British comic Steve Coogan as a high school drama teacher staging a campy, irreverent musical sequel to Shakespeare's play, "Hamlet 2" expands into nationwide release Wednesday.