Will Ferrell basketball comedy Semi-Pro has debuted at the top of the North American box office despite disappointing ticket sales for distributor New Line Cinema.

Semi-Pro, also starring Woody Harrelson and Andre Benjamin, opened with figures of $15.3 million (£7.7 million) – half of what Ferrell's last sports comedy Blades of Glory made last year and a third of 2006's Talladega Nights.

Last week New Line, which produced the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, was told by parent company Time Warner it would be merged with Warner Bros in a move likely to make Semi-Pro the studio's last big-budget film.

The gloom compounded a dispiriting weekend for North American cinemagoers, with the top 12 making $81 million (£40.8 million), 25 per cent less than the corresponding period last year, Screen International reports.

Elsewhere in the top ten, Henry VIII drama The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana, made $8.3 million (£4.2 million) on a limited release to enter at four.

In the only other new entry, Reese Witherspoon's Christina Ricci-starring witch comedy Penelope debuted at eight.

And fresh from earning a four-Oscar haul at last week's Academy awards, No Country For Old Men made a return to the top ten, while Juno clung on to tenth spot.

North American box office (last week's position)

1 Semi-Pro (new entry)
2 Vantage Point (1)
3 The Spiderwick Chronicles (2)
4 The Other Boleyn Girl (new entry)
5 Jumper (3)
6 Step Up 2 The Streets (4)
7 Fool's Gold (5)
8 Penelope (new entry)
9 No Country For Old Men (12)
10 Juno (8)

03/03/2008 11:54:13