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Star-driven Ocean's Twelve' gets No. 1 box office debut with $40.9 million US

Updated at 17:42 on December 12, 2004, EST.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Movie audiences have gone from one robbery flick to another.

Ocean's Twelve, the star-driven sequel to the theft caper Ocean's Eleven, debuted with $40.9 million US at theatres in the United States and Canada on the weekend, stealing the top box office slot from the heist hit National Treasure, which slipped to third place with $10 million, studio estimates showed Sunday.

National Treasure, which held the No. 1 spot the three previous weekends, lifted its North American total to $124.2 million US.

Blade: Trinity, the third in Wesley Snipes' vampire series, opened at No. 2 with $16.1 million. The franchise had lost much of its bite since Blade II, which brought in $32.5 million US when it opened as the No. 1 movie in March 2002.

Playing in 3,290 theatres, Ocean's Twelve averaged a robust $12,426 US per cinema, compared with $5,537 US in 2,912 movie houses for Blade: Trinity.

In limited release, Bill Murray's quirky oceanography tale, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, opened strongly, taking in $114,000 at just two theatres in New York City and Los Angeles. The film expands on Christmas Day.

Hollywood revenues rose solidly, with the top 12 movies taking in $102.8 million US, up 28 per cent from the same weekend in 2003, when Something's Gotta Give opened as the No. 1 movie with $16.1 million US.

Ocean's Twelve reunites director Steven Soderbergh with a dream cast led by George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Andy Garcia. Joining them this time was Catherine Zeta-Jones, adding to the sequel's star power.

"Movie-goers like their movie stars all in one place," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "It's like one-stop shopping for all the top stars in Hollywood."

The follow-up sends the gang to Europe, where they must pull off a virtually impossible heist to win a bet with a rival and pay off the Vegas casino owner they robbed in Ocean's Eleven.

Given the movie's marquee-name roster and the success of the first movie, which grossed $183.4 million US in North America, some industry analysts thought Ocean's Twelve might do even better than it did.

Still, its debut came in higher than the $38.1 million opening weekend of Ocean's Eleven in December 2001. Factoring in today's higher admission prices, Ocean's Twelve sold slightly fewer tickets than the original.

Distributor Warner Bros. and producer Jerry Weintraub already are mulling another Ocean's sequel, said Dan Fellman, the studio's head of distribution.

"Blade: Trinity" features Snipes returning as the half-human, half-vampire action hero, this time battling the lord of the bloodsuckers, Dracula.

Distributor New Line hopes Blade: Trinity will hold up well during an onslaught of comedies, dramas and family flicks through year's end.

"Everybody always wants their numbers to be better," said David Tuckerman, head of distribution for New Line. "Still, we're basically the only movie like it. There's nothing else like it in the marketplace, a sci-fi, horror type of movie."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theatres, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures, all in US dollars, will be released 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, $5.05 million.

7. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, $4.4 million.

8. Closer, $3.75 million.

9. Finding Neverland, $1.7 million.

10. Alexander, $1.4 million.

The Canadian Press, 2004
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