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Cloverfield tops N. American box office
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Paramount's low-budget thriller Cloverfield opened with an estimated US$41 million in ticket sales this weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, setting a new record for January, according to preliminary box office figures released Sunday.

Mysterious advertisements, a viral marketing program and an enticing premise proved to be effective for the film, which follows a band of partygoers who capture on video an ill-fated evening in New York when a skyscraper-sized monster attacks.

Actress Jennifer Morrison attends the premiere of Cloverfield in Los Angeles, January 16, 2008. (photo: Reuters via CRI)

The Paramount release, with a budget of US$25 million, went into the black on its first weekend of exhibition despite getting very-mixed reviews. It surpasses the January record of US$35.9 million set by "Star Wars" special edition in 1997.

According to Los Angeles-based box office tracking firm Media By Numbers, Cloverfield may also be the biggest Internet-driven movie release since "The Blair Witch Project" in 1999.

With TV programming largely stuck in reality mode or reruns thanks to the ongoing screenwriters' strike, Americans flocked to the movie theaters this weekend, giving Hollywood a huge lift at the box office during what is normally a sleepy time for new releases.

Romantic-comedy 27 Dresses from 20th Century Fox, another new premiere over the weekend, also did strong in box office, taking in an estimated US$22.4 million.

Meanwhile, last week's box office leader The Bucket List and front-runner Juno both held on to strong weekend business, finishing third and fourth with US$15.1 million and US$10.3 million respectively.

The season's big winner, Disney's National Treasure: Book of Secrets, did another US$8.1 million this weekend. The Nicholas Cage film has amassed a five-week record of US$198 million in ticket sales in North America since its release before Christmas.

The dozen top-grossing films took in a combined US$135 million at the box office this weekend, up nearly 39 percent over that during the same period a year ago, according to the Media By Numbers.

(Xinhua News Agency January 21, 2008)

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