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Monday, December 22, 1997 Published at 07:26 GMT

image: [ BBC Despatches ]
Los Angeles

The long-awaited film "Titanic", the costliest movie ever made, has opened at the top of the American box office. According to studio estimates, the disaster picture sailed into first place, just ahead of the latest James Bond thriller "Tomorrow Never Dies". With this report from Hollywood, Peter Bowes:

"Titanic" is an epic, action-packed romance set against the ill-fated maiden voyage of the famous luxury liner. It features actress Kate Winslet and one of Hollywood's rising stars, Leonardo DiCaprio.

The film was supposed to open in July but production delays meant the release date was postponed and costs escalated to $200m. Much of the money was spent on an extravagant set and production of a replica Titanic.

The successful opening comes as a relief to the two studios that co-financed the picture - Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox. The movie has made nearly $28m in ticket sales on its first weekend in cinemas throughout the United States.

According to Rob Friedman, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures, the figures are more than a pleasant surprise. In second place in the US box office - the latest instalment in the 35 year old James Bond series.

Pierce Brosnan stars for the second time as Agent 007. The picture took $26m dollars in its first three days on release in the States.

The previous Bond adventure, GoldenEye, was a blockbuster two years ago.

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