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'Twelve' steals top spot at box office

Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney star in "Ocean's Twelve."
Following are the top 10
movies at the North American box office for the Dec. 10-12
weekend, according to
studio estimates collected on Sunday by Reuters. Final data
will be issued on Monday.

1. "Ocean's Twelve," $40.9 million.
2. "Blade: Trinity," $16.1 million.
3. "National Treasure," $10 million.
4. "The Polar Express," $9.8 million.
5. "Christmas With the Kranks," $7.6 million.
6. "The Incredibles," $5.1
7. "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie," $4.4 million.
8. "Closer," $3.8 million.
9. "Finding Neverland," $1.7 million.
10. "Alexander," $1.4 million.
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LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- "Ocean's Twelve," the heist caper that George Clooney, Brad Pitt and their A-list pals shot in their spare time while living it up in Europe, stole the No. 1 slot at the North American weekend box office.

According to studio estimates issued Sunday, the Warner Bros. film sold $40.9 million worth of tickets in the three days since opening December 10. Warner Bros. and CNN are units of Time Warner Inc.

It marks the fourth-biggest opening for a December release, after the "Lord of the Rings" movies, and narrowly surpassed its 2001 predecessor, "Ocean's Eleven," which opened with $38.1 million in 200 fewer theaters and finished with $184 million.

Not so good was the opening of "Blade: Trinity," Wesley Snipes' third turn as the half-human/half-vampire title character of the Marvel comic book series. The New Line Cinema release opened at No. 2 with $16.1 million for the weekend and $24.6 million since its Wednesday launch. Pre-release forecasts had it starting in the $32.5 million range of 2002's "Blade II."

"We had a solid opening," said David Tuckerman, New Line's distribution president.

After ruling the box office for three weekends, Nicolas Cage's action-adventure "National Treasure" (Walt Disney Pictures) slipped to No. 3 with $10 million, taking the total for the Walt Disney Co. release to $124.2 million.

Close behind was Warner Bros.' animated holiday fable "The Polar Express" with $9.8 million, down only 9 percent from last weekend -- easily the smallest drop in the top 10. The total rose to $110 million. The studio expects it will easily pass $150 million. The film, which cost about $175 million to make, got off to a slow start four weeks ago, but has held its own since. Its foreign total stands at $47.1 million.

"Christmas with the Kranks" rounded out the top five with $7.6 million. Columbia Pictures' holiday comedy, starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, has made $54.8 million after three weekends, and should finish above $80 million, said an official with the Sony Corp.-owned studio.

'Vanity Project'

Given the success of "Ocean's Eleven," a sequel was inevitable, and all the stars returned, including Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac. Catherine Zeta-Jones was the key new addition. Both films were directed by Steven Soderbergh.

In aggressive publicity rounds for the film, the stars never failed to mention their off-set rabble-rousing, whether at Clooney's Italian villa or in European cities.

The Los Angeles Times slammed the film as a "dispiriting vanity project," while The New York Times' kinder review dubbed it "unabashedly trivial."

Clooney played Danny Ocean, a criminal mastermind whose gang must scrape up $160 million (plus interest) for the Las Vegas casino boss (Garcia) they ripped off in the first film.

"It's just a fun, good holiday movie," said Dan Fellman, president of distribution at the Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., which made the film in a 50/50 venture with Australia's Village Roadshow Ltd.

The sequel cost about $110 million, with the stars taking smaller upfront paychecks in hopes of reaping a bonanza from the profits. Clooney and Soderbergh stand to make even more since their production company helped make the movie.

The film opened in 3,290 theaters vs. 3,075 for "Ocean's Eleven."

It also opened in five foreign territories, enjoying a No. 1 bow in Australia. It opens across much of western Europe next weekend.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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