'Gangster,' 'Bee' land 1-2 b.o. punch Fri.

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After an anemic fall season, this weekend's two star-studded new arrivals pumped fresh blood into the North American boxoffice.

Universal's "American Gangster," from Imagine Entertainment, showed plenty of swagger as it took in an estimated $16 million domestically Friday. DreamWorks Animation's "Bee Movie," released by Paramount, created plenty of buzz of its own, collecting about $10.1 million for the day.

The one-two punch of an R-rated crime saga and a punny, PG-rated animated movie not only kicked off the year-end movie-going season with pizzazz, but also showed that stars, when they take on the right roles, can draw crowds to the multiplex.

In "Gangster," Denzel Washington headlines as a real-life Harlem drug lord matched up against Russell Crowe as the detective who pursues him. Ridley Scott directs the two Academy Award winners in the film, which also opened in several Eastern European territories this week. (Within the next two weeks, it will roll out in such major European countries as France, Germany and the U.K.)

Despite the challenge of both an R-rating and a running time of more than two and one half hours, "Gangster," bowing in 3,054 theaters domestically is on track to score an opening weekend that could climb north of $45 million.

"Bee," is, of course, synonymous with Jerry Seinfeld, who conceived of the film, worked on its screenplay, provides his voice for the main character, Barry B. Benson, and who has worked tirelessly to promote the movie.

The 90-minute 'toon offered up its honey in 3,928 theaters. It should have a strong Saturday as kiddies crowded the matinees, but then can carry over into the evening by catching the fancy of "Seinfeld" fans. It is headed for an opening weekend in the mid-$30 million range. (Most of "Bee's" foreign
playdates will roll out through late November and December.)

As a result of the two movies' punchy debuts, this weekend's boxoffice should jump significantly ahead of the comparable weekend last year when Fox's "Borat," in its first weekend of release, topped the chart with $26.5 million.

New Line's "Martian Child," this weekend's other new wide release, didn't join the party, though. The father/adopted son drama, directed by Menno Meyjes and starring John Cusack and Bobby Coleman, mustered just about $2 million and so ranked sixth for the day.

Last weekend's boxoffice winner, horror sequel "Saw IV," dropped to third place with an estimated $3.7 million -- a steep fall from the $14.8 million it took in a week ago on its opening Friday.

Disney's mellow comedy "Dan in Real Life," starring Steve Carell, shifted from second to fourth place as it picked up $2.6 million.

Rounding out the top five, Sony's vampire tale "30 Days of Night," tasted $1.2 million as it entered its third week of release.

The remainder of the top ten was populated by Disney's "The Game Plan," in seventh place with just over $1 million, followed by Warners' "Michael Clayton," Lionsgate's "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?," and Miramax's "Gone Baby Gone," in that order, which all did less than $1 million for day.
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